New York. W./ KUMMER New York City. HEINE, K. E. / GOUPIL, J. H. / DÖPLER, Co.
A Breathtaking Bird’s-Eye View of New York City
[New York, Goupil & Co., 1851]

New York.

23 ¼ x 37 inches, Aquatint finished with original hand color; excellent condition.; archivally framed.

This dramatic view – displaying New York as if seen from a balloon above Governor’s Island – captures the city in its rush to develop up Manhattan Island. The city's then frontier is apparent in the background; in the upper thirties and forties, urban sprawl up the island gives way to country estates and farmland. The Croton Distributing Reservoir can be seen just as the landscape fades to the horizon.  The view effectively shows the city and surrounding area in the context of its complex waterways.

In the foreground, Castle Garden is shown still linked to the Battery by a causeway; within a few years, landfill would completely attach the island to the rest of the city. Although the Battery and the rest of the southern waterfront of Manhattan are in the nearest foreground, they do not dominate the image. An artful use of shadowing – as if by passing clouds – darkens the part of the city south of Beaver and Wall Streets, thus emphasizng by contrast the area around Trinity Church as far north as City Hall. To the extreme right and left, Brooklyn Heights and Jersey City can also be seen, framing the view.

The view is credited to a trio of German/American artists: Wilhelm Heine, Julius Hermann Kummer and Karl Emil Döpler.  Kummer was a landscape artist, while Döpler was an illustrator and may have worked on the images of specific buildings.  Heine, who later gained renown as the artist who went to Japan with the Perry expedition, is the most likely of the trio to have drafted the original view. Since both Heine and Kummer were highly proficient at drawing and painting from life, it is at least possible the view was, in fact, drawn from a balloon.

Reps 2659; Stokes; Manhattan Island, vol. 3, p. 893.