Vittorio Sella

In the Everest Range of the Himalayan Sikkim region, 1899
The Circumnavigat ion of Kangchinjinga (Kangchenjunga)
Third highest Peak in the world

Vittorio Sella, 1897 (Mt. St. Elias expedition) by Luigi Amadeo di Savoia-Aosta

In 1893 Charles Fay a founding member of the Appalachian Mountain Club (a mainstay of Boston Culture and the earliest mountaineering Club in America) and personal friend of the Italian Sella family (a family of prominent mountaineers, photographers, merchants and politicians in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy) wrote a brief biography for Club members in the Appalachian Mountain Club Bulletin. The Club had recently purchased a collection of 450 Vittorio Sella (1859-1943) views of the Alps and the Caucasus. Over the next 20 years Sella continued to give and sell groups from each of his Mountaineering expeditions including Mt. St. Elias (Alaska, 1897), the Himalayan Sikkim (Everest) region, 1899; Africa, Ruwenzori (Uganda), 1906; Himalayas Karakoram (K2) 1909.  As well as the Alps (1880-1889) and the Caucasus (1889-1890). (Andrew Smith Gallery is the exclusive agent for the sale of prints from this collection). Fay wrote:

“It is but natural that members of the Appalachian Mountain Club should desire to know something of the personality of the man, the results of whose activity as a mountaineer and photographer they have had occasion to enjoy and admire. We are glad to be able to present a few facts which will serve to satisfy this proper curiosity.

Mr. Sella was born in Biella, northern Italy, in sight of the outliers of the Alps, in 1859. His father, Venanzio Giuseppe, was a woolen manufacturer. The son seems to have inherited some of the paternal versatility; for Venanzio Sella was the author not merely of standard works on woolen manufacture, but also published, as early as 1858, a treatise on the then new art of photography which was translated into German and French and afterwards incorporated in Roret's Encyclopedia. It was by his uncle Quintino Sella, the famous Italian minister of finance who also was the founder of the Italian Alpine Club, that Vittorio was first taught to love the mountains. In 1874, as a boy of fifteen, he made his first ascent with him; the second a year later. In 1877 he left school to serve in the cavalry of the Italian army, on the expiration of which term of service he returned to Biella to carry on the manufactory, his father having died in 1876. Every holiday, summer and winter, found him on the mountains of the vicinity, usually carrying an old photographic apparatus which had belonged to his father. To secure his first panorama — that from the highest of the neighboring peaks — he passed two weeks on its summit, at 8,000 feet, in a small and inconvenient tent. In 1880 he began his annual photographic excursions in the Alps, which were continued without interruption until 1889. It was as early as 1882 that his winter crossing of the Matterhorn, ascending by one side and descending by another, made him famous among the climbing fraternity even in London. The speed with which he has accomplished some of his campaigns is something surprising. In 1887, between July 29 and August 11 he climbed the Weisshorn twice, the Mettelhorn, Mittelgabelhorn, Alphubel, Rimpfischhorn, Dent Blanche, and the Dufourspitze of Monte Rosa. In 1888 a similar campaign procured us those exquisite pictures of the Alps of Dauphiny. In 1889 and 1890 he made his two visits to the Caucasus. Each year he still devoted a month or more to his favorite art and recreation, and they lost none of their zest for him.
In height he is only about five feet and six inches, in weight only about one hundred and forty pounds; yet it is reported that he can accomplish a journey of twenty hours, carrying a load of twenty pounds, without excessive fatigue.”

In 1901 Sella gave a group from his expedition to the Everest Range and Kangchenjunga to the AMC. Those are pictured below. In 1899, Charles Fay wrote for the report of the AMC Committee on the Sella Collection and published in the AMC 1901 Bulletin:

“The most interesting fact that the Committee has to report is the addition to the Collection of a remarkable series of views in the Himalayas, generously donated in the spring by Mr. Sella. These views, some seventy [Fifty remaining in 2018] in number (counting as individual pictures the separate sections of the panoramas), were taken during a visit made by Sella in company with Mr. D. Freshfield to the lofty central range of Sikkim and Nepal in 1900 [1899], during which a tour of Mt. Kinchinjunga was for the first time accomplished by civilized man.
This superb scenery, comprising the highest peaks of the known world, and the vast glaciers that encompass them, furnish forth a group of pictures doubtless without a parallel. The weather during the journey precluded all attempts to reach high summits, which gave the party ample leisure and provided a perfect atmosphere for photographic work, as is testified by the exquisite results.”

The majority of the single pictures measure seven and a half by nine and a half inches; there are quite a number enlarged to eleven by fifteen inches, while in two of the fine five-sectioned panoramas the separate plates are fifteen by eighteen inches in size. These views were received unmounted, but during the summer were mounted with great care, and were ready for their first exhibition to the public at the Club-room from November 18 [1901].

In 1899 from September - October, Sella joined up with legendary British mountaineer, Douglas Freshfied, also on the expedition were Sella’s brother Erminio, the guide Angelo Maquingnaz, Sella’s photographic assistant, Erminio Botta, and geologist Edmond Garwood so they could map region. The work was published in Round Kangchenjuinga, a Narrative of Mountain Travel and Exploration, 1903 by Douglas Freshfield.

All prints are negative date 1899, prints c. 1900-1901.


HS 8 Kanchinjinga and Pandim (telephotograph at distance of 60 km.),
Silver Collodion 17x22.9cm, 6.69x9.02" 

HS 11 Buddhist Temple at Tumlong, Silver Collodion,
18.8x23.9cm, 7.40x9.41”

HS 13, Hortensias in bloom, Gelatin Silver Print,
28.3x36.7cm, 11.14x14.45”

HS 22, Cane Bridge on way from Tumlong to Choontan, Silver Colodion    
18.8x24.2cm, 7.40x9.53"

HS 29, Lachen. Entrance to bungalow, Silver Collodion,
23.9x18.6cm, 9.41x7.32"

HS 35, Rhododendrons by Torrent. Zemu Valley, Gelatin Silver Print,
28x36.8cm, 11.02x14.49"

HS 37, Rhododendron on shore of river, Zemu Valley, Silver Collodion,
24.3x18.8cm, 9.57x7.40”

HS 39, Forest in Zemu Valley. Rhododendron falconeri and other kinds,
Silver Collodion, 24.3x18.8cm, 9.57x7.40”

HS 43-46, Siniolchum Simur, etc. from Zemu Glacier 18000 feet.  Panorama. Gelatin Silver Print,
28.1x137.8cm, 11.06x54.25"

HS 43-44

HS 45-46

HS 47, Kanchinjinga from left side of Zemu Glacier, Silver Collodion,
16.9x22.6cm, 6.65x8.90"

HS 49, Gentians (natural size) from side of Zemu Glacier, Silver Collodion
18.7x24cm, 7.36x9.45”

HS 51, Leontopodium alpinium (natural size), Silver Collodion,
16.9x22.9cm, 6.65x9.02”

HS 52, Delphinum glacialis (natural size), Silver Collodion,
17.1x23cm, 6.73x9.06"

HS 53, Camp Back of left-hand Moraine of Zemu Glacier, at 5200 m.,
Silver Collodion, 18.8x24cm, 7.40x9.45"

HS 54, Kanchinjinga (telephotograph at 17 Km. Distance),
Silver Collodion, 17.7x22cm, 6.97x8.66”

HS 55, Siniolchun, 22570 feet telephotograph from Zemu Glacier,
 Gelatin Silver Print, 38.5x28.3cm, 15.16x11.14"

HS 56, Kanchingunga, Silver Collodion,
16.7x22.9cm, 6.57x9.02"

HS 59-63, From Chumalhari to Kangchenjanga.  Panorama., Gelatin Silver Print
37.1x217.2cm, 14.61x85.51"

HS 59-60

HS 61-62

HS 63

HS 64, Siniolchun, Gelatin Silver Print,
38.9x28.8cm, 15.31x11.34"

HS 72, Siniolchun from near the La (telephotograph), Silver Collodion,
18.3x23.8cm, 7.20x9.37"

HS 78, Mountains above the Lungma Valley, Silver Collodion,
16.9x23cm, 6.65x9.06"

HS 79, Camping in the Lungma Valley, Silver Collodion,
18.6x24cm, 7.32”9.45"

HS 83-88, Panorama from a peak about 18000 feet on the North side of Lungma Valley,
Silver Collodion, 18.1x113.7cm, 7.13x44.76"

HS 83-84

HS 85-86

HS 87-88

HS 85, Camp on Moraine of Zemu Glacier after a snowstorm,
Gelatin Silver Print, 28.8x38.9cm, 11.34x15.31"

HS 89, Kanchinjinga, Silver Collodion, 16.8x22.8cm, 6.61x8.98"

HS 93-95, Mountains between Sikhim and Tibet, seen from the foot of Jonsong La at about 19000 feet,
Silver Collodion, 18.4x67.7cm, 7.24x26.65"

HS 102, Kanchinjinga below Jonsong La., Gelatin Silver Print,
27.3x37cm, 10.75x14.57"

HS 103, Encamping upon the Glacier, Silver Collodion,
18.8x24.2cm, 7.40x9.53"

HS 105, Kanchinjinga from the Kanchin Glacier, Silver Collodion,
16.8x22.9cm, 6.61x9.02"

HS 109-113, Kanchinjinga Range (panorama of enlargements), Gelatin Silver Print
37.4x217.8cm, 14.72x85.75”

HS 109-110

HS 111-112

HS 113

HS 117, West Spur of Valley above Kangbachen, Silver Collodion,
18.8x24cm, 7.40x9.45"

HS 119, Jannu (7601 m) and glacier, Silver Collodion,
18.4x24cm, 7.24x9.45"

HS 134-135, Group Du Mt. Everest (telephotograph) [Stereo View], Silver Collodion,
16.6x45.8cm, 6.54x18.03"

HS 136-139, Range of Mountains from Everest to Kanchingjinga (panorama of enlargements),
Silver Collodion, 36.5x183.1cm 14.37x72.09"

HS 136-137

HS 138-139

HS 142, Houses of Jongri, Silver Collodion,
18.4x24cm, 7.24x9.45"

HS 148, Kanchinjinga (telephotograph) from near Jongri,
Silver Collodion, 16.8x23cm, 6.61x9.06"

HS 149, Summit of Pandim (telephotograph at distance of 25 km),
Silver Collodion, 17x22.9cm, 6.69x9.02"

HS 150, Pandim and forest from near the Praig-Chu Fall at the foot of
Alukthang Glacier, Silver Collodion,
24x18.6cm, 9.45x7.32"

HS 154, Kanchinjinga at sunset, Silver Collodion,
16.9x23cm, 6.65x9.06"

HS 157, Kanchinjinga and Guicha La at, Gelatin Silver Print,
28.7x38.6cm, 11.30x15.20"

HS 158, Kangchenjanga from Guicha La., Silver Collodion,
17x22.7cm, 6.69x8.94"

HS 166(1), Kabrchinjunga, Silver Collodion,
18.6x23.9cm, 7.32x9.41"

HS 166(2), Kabru with cloud effects, Silver Collodion,
18.5x23.9cm, 7.28x9.41"

HS 167-172, Kanchinjinga Range from the top of Kabur, about 15800 feet,
Silver Collodion, 17.8x99.9cm, 7.01x39.33"

HK 167-168

HK 169-170

HK 171-172

HS 177, Pandim and Kanchinjinga, Silver Collodion,
18.5x23.8cm, 7.28x9.37"

HS 181, Bridge over the Praig-Chu, Silver Collodion,
23.8x18.4cm, 9.37x7.24"

HS 183, Kabru (telephotograph at distance of 32 km), Silver Collodion,
18.6x23.8cm, 7.32x9.37"

HS 184, Kabru and Kanchinjinga at sunrise from Pamionchi,
Silver Collodion, 18.7x23.9cm, 7.36x9.41"

HS 187, Interior of Buddhist Temple at Pamionchi, Silver Collodion,
18.6x23.9cm, 7.32x9.41"

HS 192, Darjeeling and Kanchinjinga Range, Gelatin Silver Print,
28.6x38.8cm, 11.26x15.28"