Souvenirs d'Egypte

Souvenirs d’Egypte, ca. 1880s. Albumen silver prints. Graphic Arts GAX 2010. in process

Graphic Arts recently acquired a two-volume set of nineteenth-century albumen silver prints, which include the work of Turkish photographer and publisher J. Pascal Sébah (1823-1886) and the French photographer Félix Bonfils (1831-1885), among others. Although the primary focus is Egypt, the album begins with photographs in Venice and takes the viewer on a tourist’s journey to Cairo and then, Constantinople.

The fifty-five photographs, taken in the 1870s and 1880s, include two iconic images of Victorian tourists climbing the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops). The negatives are not signed but they may have been created by Émile Béchard, who worked for the Sébah studio. Note, the printer had one of the glass negative up-side-down and made an image in reverse of the original.

Attribution on these prints is difficult. They can be loosely attributed to the Sébah studio, where tourists could choose from a library of images, which were then printed on demand. The negatives signed “P. Sébah” may have been by Pascal himself while those signed “Sébah” might have been by his brother Cosimi, who ran the studio after 1883. Pascal’s son Jean signed his negatives “J.P. Sébah” and also formed a partnership with the Frenchman Policarpe Joaillier (1872-1947) in the 1890s, publishing as “Sébah & Joaillier.” All negatives were printed and sold for many years with little distinction between vintage prints and those created much later.

See Engin Ozendes, Sébah & Joaillier ‘den Foto Sabah ‘a (Istanbul: YKY, 1999). Marquand Library (SAPH) TR562 .O93 1999

Besides the landscape views, these albums include a number of portraits, believed to have been staged by the Turkish painter Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910), who dressed and posed models to form exotic tableaux vivants.

230: Dame turque chez elle [Turkish lady at home], ca. 1870. Albumen silver print.