Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, New Mexico, In a Niche Fifty Feet Above Present Cañon Bed

Timothy H. O'Sullivan1873

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

In 1873 Timothy O'Sullivan led a splinter group from Lieutenant George Wheeler's geological expedition to Zuni Pueblo in northeast Arizona and to the pre-Columbian cliff dwellings known as the White House Ruins at Cañon de Chelle, mostly dating from the eleventh century. O'Sullivan was one of the first people to photograph the structures nestled in the canyon wall.

Above the architectural forms, the monumental striated rock formation hovers illogically where the sky should be. O'Sullivan, photographing from a great distance, conveyed the sense of overwhelming scale. Along with the two tiny figures standing at the left center, the photograph's original caption, which identifies the location as: "In a Niche 50 feet above Present Cañon Bed," provides a measure of scale.

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  • Title: Ancient Ruins in the Cañon de Chelle, New Mexico, In a Niche Fifty Feet Above Present Cañon Bed
  • Creator: Timothy H. O'Sullivan
  • Date: 1873
  • Physical Dimensions: 27.6 x 19.2 cm (10 7/8 x 7 9/16 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Albumen silver print
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Object Type: Print
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 84.XM.484.4
  • Markings: (Recto, mount) imprinted in black ink, at upper center: "WAR DEPARTMENT, CORPS, / [eagle crest] / OF ENGINEERS, U.S. ARMY."; in black ink, at upper left center: "Geographical & Geological Explorations West of the 100th Meridian."; in black ink, at upper right center: "Expedition of 1873 Under Command of Lieut. Geo. M. Wheeler, Corps of Engr's."; at lower left below image: "T.H. O'Sullivan, Phot.; at lower right below image: "No. 11"; in black ink, at lower center: "ANICENT RUINS IN THE CAÑON DE CHELLE, N.M. / In a niche 50 feet above present Cañon bed."
  • Inscription: (Verso, mount) inscribed in pencil, at upper left edge: "lot 139 [space] 24 Oct 75 [space] S."
  • Display Location: Not currently on view
  • Department: Photographs
  • Culture: American
  • Classification: Photographs


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