An exceptional whole-plate study of a grand and imposing tree, almost completely filling the large plate. It has been photographed with a directness that emphasises its strength and maturity, contrasting with the delicacy of the small stream approaching in the foreground. It was photographed on his estate at la Douy (spelt variously as Dhuy, Dhuis or Duys), where Girault de Prangey built his "Villa".
Girault de Prangey was a passionate plantsman and his photographic interests later in life were almost entirely devoted to the beautiful and exotic specimens that he was able to cultivate in his own range of glasshouses and gardens around his villa. His efforts at this early date indicate that he was undaunted by the twin problems associated with photographing trees: the slow exposure times, which demanded an unusual stillness to descend on the subject, and the problem encountered when attempting to photograph green which tended to appear as solid black on the plate. Here, he has excelled in presenting his tree with enough light filtering through the leaves to distinguish them clearly from the branches and trunk. Trees continued to fascinate Girault de Prangey throughout his travels, and, as with his architectural details, he chose the format for each subject with care. See, for example, the elongated proportions used to great effect in the vertical study of the cypress trees at the Villa d'Este at Tivoli (lot 9).
This is one of only two known French tree studies by Girault de Prangey in this large whole-plate format. Neither is dated, but other smaller format views of the grounds and environs of the villa date from 1841. While it seems that the artist meticulously titled and numbered his daguerreotypes on small paper labels on the verso, very few other examples are signed or otherwise identified on the plate. See illustration for a detail of the artist's title and signature on this plate.