The tree is a subject that is notoriously difficult to photograph well. This was especially true during the early days of the medium when the sensitivity of photographic chemistry to certain areas of the spectrum was limited, and greens had a tendency to appear as black. It was nevertheless a subject that fascinated the artist, who photographed the majestic trees on his estate in France, palms in Egypt (see lot 5), the cedars of Lebanon (see Christie's catalogue, May 2003, lot 51), the plane tree at Buyukdère (see lot 6) and the traditional cypress and pines which are so redolent of the Roman landscape.
In this elegant panorama Girault de Prangey has allowed the effect to emphasise the dark solid mass of the individual cypress trees, which appear silhouetted against the even light blue of the sky. The single pine, an evergreen that symbolised immortality to the Romans, reigns over all, dividing the plate according to the traditional rule of the Golden Section, which adds to the beauty and balance of the composition. The pine emerges, like the bushes, from deep shadows in the foreground. Sunlight glints off its soft rounded canopy and over the low-growing deciduous trees or bushes in the middle distance. To capture such transient effects of the sun would be ambitious for any photographer during the 19th century, but especially so for one working in 1842. To achieve such success is exceptional.