Oriental Grand Tour. Photographs from the Ruth and Peter Herzog collection

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Photographs from the Ruth and Peter Herzog collection

September 13th – December 13th 2020


Portrait of a dragoman (travel guide) Albumen print, 1860–1867, Félix Bonfils © by Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron Kabinett, Basel. All rights reserved

Oriental Grand Tour

THE PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION OF RUTH AND PETER HERZOG The collection of photographs compiled by Ruth and Peter Herzog-Wyss tells the story of people living in industrialised societies from 1839 onwards. The pictures are works from a pioneering age and document all eras in professional, artistic and amateur photographs. All analogue technologies from the history of photography since its invention are represented in the collection. Besides archiving and conserving the photographs, the continuous maintenance and expansion of the collection also includes hosting workshops, specialist conferences and guided tours, as well as staging exhibitions at its own and other institutions. Its photographs 2

have been used for exhibition catalogues, books, articles in journals and magazines, postcards, posters and videos. The collection itself, the expert knowledge it contains and its associated library are all available for the purposes teaching, research, exhibitions and publications by both interested private individuals and national and international institutions (schools, universities, museums). Peter and Ruth Herzog-Wyss have compiled the collection with meticulous care, perseverance and a wealth of expertise and have invested not only a lifetime’s work but also all their own resources. In 2000 they won the Basel -Stadt Culture Award for their tireless cultural efforts and in 2002 received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Basel. 3

ITINERA CUM CAMERA After hundreds of years of merchants, soldiers and missionaries travelling the world to carry out their respective duties, photography, when it was invented in 1839, offered for the first time a relatively easy way of recording their experiences on foreign shores and distant continents. The photographs on display at the Antikenmuseum Basel bear witness to this in a most impressive manner. Once the medium had been introduced, photographic knowledge and skills spread rapidly. The previously often cumbersome task of preparing drawings of ancient sites was replaced by this new method of recording images, which (after introduction of the dry plate) was significantly easier to manage. Photographers’ studios were 4

established and in the pioneering days (c. 1839–1860) professional photographers were sometimes hired to accompany members of the aristocracy on their so-called grand tours, their journeys around the Mediterranean region. Whilst in the beginning it was just a small number of highly educated and wealthy people (mainly from England and France) that visited Biblical locations and ancient sites, more and more tourists followed in their footsteps throughout the course of the 19th century, and also began to request photographs that they would later proudly present to those who had stayed at home. In parallel with tourism, an industry of photography began to emerge. The thousands of images in our collection are testament to this fact. Some of them are on display here: whether in Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey,

Palestine or Persia, there was hardly a monument that was not recorded photographically. The pictures were usually sold directly by the studios, which offered individual images as well as entire albums, compiled according to customers’ wishes. Besides the monuments mentioned, images of landscapes and pictures of typical representatives of particular ethnic groups were also available. Certain models appeared in various guises, as water or melon sellers, and then as rabbis or harem guards. The needs of male customers for exotic thrills were met by offering photographs of ladies, some pretty, some less so, fully clothed or scantily clad and performing different roles. Archaeologists were strangely reluctant to use photography for a long time, even though William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877), the inventor of the



paper negative (1840), had emphasised the obvious advantages of the method for excavations and similar activities. Today we are glad that numerous archaeologists left behind not only written records and drawings but also photographs. Thanks to photography, much has been preserved that would otherwise have been irretrievably lost. Archaeologists in particular have reason to be grateful for the medium, because without photography, we would be missing important aids in reconstructing ancient sites and monuments. Peter Herzog


ORIENTAL TRAVEL AND PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE 19TH CENTURY Foreign travel to the Middle East experienced a veritable boom throughout the 19th century. From the tradition of going on so-called 'grand tours' to Italy, Greece and Asia Minor, popular since the late 17th century especially amongst the English, French and German gentry and undertaken as part one’s education, evolved a form of tourism over the course of the 19th century, which was marketed to wealthy Europeans, taking them to various locations in the Middle East. The fascination that the Orient held for Europeans, however, was not new. Inspired by descriptions of early explorers and adventurers, by works of Orientalist art and by a wish to follow 8

in the footsteps of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land and to visit newly discovered archaeological sites, a growing number of European travellers embarked on the gruelling journey. Travel accounts such as the “Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem” by F.-R. Chateaubriand (1811) or G. de Nerval’s “Voyage en Orient” (1851) also made a significant contribution to the growing fascination for the Orient. In the context of early orientalist photography, a journey made by yet another writer played a special role: from 1849 to 1852, Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880) and his friend, a photographer by the name of Maxime Du Camp (1822–1894), travelled around Egypt, Nubia, Palestine, Asia Minor and Greece. Du Camp included some 200 paper negatives in Flaubert’s travel journal and published the resulting report in several volumes with titles

such as “Souvenirs et Paysages d’Orient” (1848) and “Égypte, Nubie, Palestine, Syrie” (1852). In his photographs he used a technique called calotype (or talbotype), developed around 1841 by Henry Fox Talbot. The calotype process had a major advantage over earlier techniques such as the daguerreotype process, where each photograph was one of a kind that could not be reproduced: it was a negative-positive process which made it possible to make several positive prints by contact printing from a paper negative. This opened up the possibility of reproducing photographs and publishing albums. The golden era of photography came in the mid-19th century, when the calotype process was further perfected by the use of glass plates as a capture medium instead of paper. The evolution of photography as a means of docu-



mentation further promoted the enthusiasm for oriental travel, which in turn had an impact on the use and spread of photography in the Middle East. From the 1860s onwards, numerous specialist photographic studios were opened by both European and indigenous photographers in cities like Beirut, Constantinople and Damascus in order to fulfil the demand for photographic travel souvenirs


ORIENTAL TRAVEL Whilst travel to the Middle East was still the preserve of a select few, diplomats, researchers, pilgrims and a privileged upper class at the beginning of the 19th century, it began to be democratised from around the 1850s onwards. Thanks to improvements in travel such as the expansion of navigation routes and railway networks, along with the increased opening up of Middle Eastern countries to western travellers, the opportunities to travel became more easily accessible to a wider public. The demand for universal education, the allure of the exotic, along with the desire to experience the history of the Christian faith on Biblical trails attracted more and more Europeans to the Middle East. These motives were also suppor12

ted by a colonialist feeling of superiority to the peoples of the Orient. In 1869, the English entrepreneur Thomas Cook, who had previously specialised in European travel, offered his European customers the first ever Nile river cruise. Later that year, organised trips to Palestine became available. Europeans travelled to the Middle East on different routes. Most took a ship to Alexandria or Port Said travelling on from there to Jaffa, Beirut or Tripoli. Another shipping route ran from Piraeus (in Greece) to Constantinople or Smyrna (present-day Izmir), from where one travelled on to the Levant. Initially the travel offers, which at that stage could avail of a network of local travel agents, guides (so-called dragomans) and accommodation, were concentrated in Palestine, where visiting Christian sites was the main attraction. Over time, other desti-

nations in the Lebanon and Syria were added, with a focus on the ancient sights such as Baalbek and later Palmyra. When looking at the development of Middle Eastern tourism in the 19th century and its growing popularity, it is not surprising that orientalist photography, tailored to the needs of travellers experienced a veritable boom in tandem with it.




Portrait of a dragoman (travel guide) Albumen print, 1860–1867 Félix Bonfils Inv. L0412_F16


Travel group in Bethany (Judea) Silver gelatine print, 1894 Unknown photographer Inv. L0415_F22

© Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron Kabinett, Basel (Stiftung) 15


GREECE Greece was often one of the final stops for European travellers on their return journey from the Orient. They, much like their 17th and 18th century predecessors, were mainly interested in the ancient monuments. Dimitrios Konstantinou (1820–1900) was one of the first Greek photographers. He began his career working as an assistant for photographic pioneers James Robertson (1813–1888) and Felice Beato (1832–1909) on their travels through Greece and in 1858 opened his own studio selling pictures of ancient sites to tourists. Alongside this commercial enterprise, Konstantinou also worked for the Athens Archaeological Society recording its work and taking photographs of the city’s monuments. His famous image of the Acropolis in 18

Athens shows the spoil heaps from the clearing work carried out by the Society. Another feature that is clearly visible in the photograph is the so-called Frankish Tower, a 14-century defensive structure in the area of the ancient propylaea. It was demolished in 1875. The second half of the 19th century saw the first large-scale archaeological excavations carried out in Greece and in Athens in particular. Numerous monuments, including the Theatre of Dionysus, seen in this photograph by Henri Beck, were examined and restored at the time. Photography was not just used for recording ancient monuments; enterprises that attested to Greece’s modernisation, such as the construction of the Corinth Canal (1881–1893), which provided an opportunity for ships to avoid the rather dangerous circumnavigation of the

Peloponnese, were also popular photographic subjects.



3 Athens, South slope of the Acropolis Albumen print, 1860–1865 Dimitrios Konstantinou Inv.-Nr. L0363_F13 4

Athens, Theatre of Dionysus during the excavations Albumen print, 1864–1868 Henri Beck Inv. L0363_F19


Construction Work on the Corinth Canal Collotype, around 1885 Unknown photographer Inv. L0352_F12

© Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron Kabinett, Basel (Stiftung) 21


CONSTANTINOPLE Constantinople, the bridge between the Orient and the Occident, undoubtedly made the most important contribution towards the success of orientalist photography. The 'pearl on the Bosporus' captured the imagination of numerous Europeans, among them the French writer Pierre Loti (1850–1923). The descriptions of Constantinople in his novel “Aziyadé” (1879) are an eloquent testimony to the fascination that the city held for western visitors. With the rise in the number of tourists to the Orient from the mid-19th century onwards and the increased demand for photographs, numerous photographic studios were established in the Middle East. Pascal Sébah (1823–1886), for example, opened his first studio in the 24

Pera district as early as 1857. It was no coincidence that he chose that particular district of the city, since it was home to many foreign embassies, consulates and hotels and was thus at the centre of Constantinople’s tourist trade. Sébah, who had a Syrian Catholic father and an Armenian mother, soon became one of the most prolific photographers in the city. His son, Jean-Pascal Sébah (1872–1947), continued to run the studio and in 1890 teamed up with the French photographer Policarpe Joaillier. As well as portrait photographs, which were typical of the period and highly sought-after by a western clientele, Sébah and Joaillier also specialised in documenting the (architectural) sights of the city on the Bosporus. Shortly before the First World War, they were tasked with recording all of Constantinople’s historic monuments.

Viçen (1820–1902), Hovsep (1830–1908) and Kevork Abdullah (1839–1918), three brothers from Armenia, trading under the name Abdullah Frères, opened their first studio in the Pera district in 1858. Their repertoire also included pictures of the city, particularly panoramic images, but it was mainly their portrait photographs of well-known personalities that earned them such high renown that the Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz made them his official court photographers in 1863. Commissioned by the Sublime Porte, they took numerous photographs not just of Constantinople but of the entire Ottoman Empire, which were compiled in albums in 1893 and presented to both the Library of Congress in Washington and the British Museum in London.




Constantinople, Galata Bridge Albumen print, 1870–1875 Pascal Sébah Inv. L0363_F23


Constantinople, District of Pera Albumen print, 1885–1895 Guillaume Berggren Inv. L0391_F10


Constantinople, Interior of Hagia Sophia Albumen print, 1860–1870 Pascal Sébah Inv. L0363_F25

8 Constantinople, Mosque of Yeni-Djami Albumen print, 1870–1880 Viçen Abdullah Hovsep Abdullah Kevork Abdullah Inv. L0363_F29

© Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron Kabinett, Basel (Stiftung) 27


BEIRUT Like Constantinople, Beirut was also a centre for early orientalist photography. As a port of call on various shipping routes from Europe, the city was the starting point for excursions into the interior of the country and for people who were planning on travelling on to other places such as Jerusalem or Damascus. Along with the growth in tourism, a flourishing market for photographic souvenirs also developed locally. In 1867, Félix Bonfils (1831–1885), a photographer from Alès (France), opened the best-known and most successful studio in Beirut, the Maison Bonfils, running it together with his wife Marie-Lydie Cabanis and later with his son Adrien. The Maison Bonfils became the market leader in photography, offering several hundred negatives and 30

15’000 prints for sale. After a while, Bonfils opened other branches in Alexandria, Cairo, Jerusalem and Baalbek. Initially, Bonfils specialised in photographing Biblical sites, offering pictures either individually or as part of a fivepiece set with short descriptive captions entitled “Souvenirs d‘Orient” (1877). He received an award at the Paris World Fair of 1878, which further enhanced the Maison Bonfils reputation. Besides the usual images of monuments, Bonfils’ studio shots of locals like the picture of a dragoman on display at the beginning of the exhibition, were particularly popular with tourists from 1870 onwards. These staged photographs portrayed locals according to their ethnic groups, professions or roles within society and further entrenched the cliché of the 'different oriental' which was widespread amongst 31

Europeans. Today the images are viewed as rather clichéd and quite problematic from the point of view of political correctness. 10 Beirut Albumen print, 1860–1880 Félix Bonfils Inv. L0361_F8 11

Beirut and the Mount Lebanon Albumen print, around 1870 Félix Bonfils Inv. L0412_F9

© Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron Kabinett, Basel (Stiftung) 32

THE HOLY LAND Since the early days of orientalist photography Palestine was a region of special significance. This development was closely linked with an upturn in research into Palestine in the 19th century. The region had been open only to a small number of pilgrims, missionaries and early explorers until its scientific exploration experienced a surge in the second half of the 19th century. This is attested to, for instance, by the British Palestine Exploration Fund (1865) and the Deutscher Verein zur Erforschung Palästinas (1877). Both institutions still exist today. Whilst pioneers like the French photographer Maxime Du Camp (1822–1894) and the Englishman Francis Frith (1822–1898) were initially motivated by the urge to scientifically 34

document the Levant and other places they visited, commercial orientalist photography soon found its way to the Holy Land, which became increasingly popular as a tourist destination. The political weakness of the Ottoman Empire and the growing presence of some of the major European powers led to the region being opened up to European tourists from the mid-19th century onwards. Improved routes and the associated increase in religiously motivated travel meant that Biblical sites became popular destinations for European tourists. Following in the footsteps of the early pilgrims and researchers, most flocked to Jerusalem, with Bethlehem, Jericho, Hebron, Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee also becoming popular destinations on travel itineraries. Whilst in Jerusalem monuments with the most relevance

for the Christian faith (for instance the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Via Dolorosa) were the main attractions, Jewish and Islamic memorial sites (such as the Western Wall or the Dome of the Rock) were also visited and photographed. The Maison Bonfils published albums of photographs with titles such as “Souvenirs de Jérusalem” (1880) and “Nazareth et ses environs” (1894).




Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock Albumen print, 1890–1894 Francis Frith Inv. L0415_F12


Jerusalem, Citadel (“Tower of David”) Photochrome, 1895 Photoglob Co. Inv. L0415_E1_F3


Jericho (Palestine) Photochrome, 1895 Photoglob Co. Inv. L0415_E1_F1


Pilgrims entering Bethlemen on Christmas Day Albumen print, 1860–1880 Félix Bonfils Inv. L0361_F23

15 Monastery of Mar Saba (Palestine) Albumen print, 1860–1880 Félix Bonfils Inv. L0412_F6 © Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron Kabinett, Basel (Stiftung) 37


SYRIA Outside of Palestine, European travellers were also particularly interested in Biblical sites. One photograph by F. Bonfils, which he published in his album “Souvenirs d‘Orient” (1877), for instance, showed a section of the city wall of Damascus, where, according to the Acts of the Apostles (9, 25), Paul fled the city. Apart from the Christian sites, however, the 'heathen' monuments of the Middle East soon joined the list of popular tourist attractions. Louis Vignes (1831–1896), alongside Luigi Pesce (1827–1864), was one of the earliest orientalist photographers. As a young naval officer, Vignes studied the then novel calotype process and photographically documented a journey that he undertook between 1859 and 1862 40

from Sicily to Turkey, the Lebanon and on to Palestine. Thanks to his skills as a photographer and his experience of the Middle East, the French navy recommended him to the aristocrat and antiquarian Honoré d‘Albert Duc de Luynes (1802–1867), who was planning an expedition to the Orient and was looking for a photographer to document the project. The trip, which took place in 1864, took Vignes from Beirut to Palestine and on to Palmyra. A report by the Duc de Luynes entitled “Voyage d’exploration à la Mer Morte, à Petra et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain”, published posthumously in 1871, contained 62 of Vignes’ photographs. Both photographs on display here were taken by Vignes at Palmyra but neither of them was published in the travel journal. The famous French photographer Charles Nègre reproduced both

albumen prints prior to publication of the travel journal. They are thus the earliest photographic records of Palmyra. The picture of the Tower of Elahbel, a funerary tower, became even more significant in 2015, when it fell victim to the destructive madness of the so-called Islamic State, who blew up several such monuments at Palmyra.




Damascus, City Wall Albumen print, 1875 Félix Bonfils Inv. L0363_F30


Palmyra, Funerary Temple Albumen print, 1864 Louis Vignes Inv. L1031_F9


Damascus, Courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque Albumen print, 1865–1875 Suleiman Hakim Inv. L0415_F19

21 Palmyra, Funerary Tower of Elahbel Albumen print, 1864 Louis Vignes Inv. L1031_F10


Baalbek, Temple of Bacchus Albumen print, 1872 Félix Bonfils Inv. L0363_F35

© Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron Kabinett, Basel (Stiftung) 43


PERSIA The Neapolitan officer Luigi Pesce (1827–1864) travelled to Iran in 1848, where he was tasked with modernising the Persian infantry by King Nāser ad-Din Schāh of Persia. Besides working as a military instructor, Pesce was also a keen amateur photographer. Thanks to his official role at the Persian court, he was able to employ his skills to record images of Tehran and of members of the royal family. Having developed a passion for the still novel technology himself, the Shah personally promoted Pesce’s work as a photographer. He had previously sent the French daguerrotypist Jules Richard to Persepolis in 1850 to photograph the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire, but due to a shortage of funds 46

on Richard’s part, the task was never carried out. Pesce, who in contrast to Richard realised the importance of the project and in his eagerness to win the Shah’s favour, funded his own expedition to document the historic ruins of Persia in 1857. His photographs of Persepolis, Pasargadae and Naqsh-e Rostam are considered to be the earliest preserved photographic images of these ancient sites. In 1858, Pesce presented the result of the campaign to the Shah in the form of an album, which also contained photographs of Tehran, and which is now kept in the collection of the Golestan Palace in Tehran. Other prints, which Pesce also compiled to form albums, were sent to Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour and to the German Emperor William I of Prussia. In 1860, Pesce compiled yet another album of 42 salt and albumen prints and

gave it to his friend Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1810–1895), the renowned English diplomat and 'father of Assyriology', as a personal parting gift shortly before Sir Henry left Persia. Pesce’s photographs are of particular historical value, not just because they are the earliest images of ancient Persian monuments but also because they show numerous monuments in Tehran that either no longer exist today or have been significantly modified.




Persepolis, Gate (“Gate of All Nations”) Albumen print, 1858 Luigi Pesce Inv. L0337_E1_F5


Persepolis, Relief with delegations paying tribute from the northern staircase of the audience hall (“Apadana”) Albumen print, 1858 Luigi Pesce Inv. L0337_E1_F10


Taq-e Bostan, Sassanian Relief with boar hunting Albumen print, 1850–1858 Luigi Pesce Inv. L0337_E1_F14


Naqsh-e Rostam, Sassanian Relief Albumen print, 1850–1858 Luigi Pesce Inv. L0337_E1_F9 1858

© Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron Kabinett, Basel (Stiftung) 49


IMPRINT General Management: Andrea Bignasca Michel Pompanin Exhibition concept: Laurent Gorgerat Claudia E. Suter Lender: Jacques Herzog und Pierre de Meuron Kabinett (Stiftung), Basel Design & graphics: Giorgia Imber Trinidad Moreno Advertising & social media: Tine Dittmar Texts: Laurent Gorgerat Peter Herzog Editing: Anna Laschinger Tomas Lochman 51

Translations: Aurélie Gorgerat (fr.) Sandy Hämmerle (engl.) Restoration / displays: Kurt Bosshard Susanne Dürr Olivier Berger Media relations / marketing: Alexandra Maurer Displays / technical team: Abdeslam Achlhi Urs Kaufmann

The exhibition has been made possible by: Claudia E. Suter 52

BIBLIOGRAPHY B. Forster, Fotografien als Sammlungsobjekte im 19. Jahrhundert. Die Alphons-Stübel-Sammlung früher Orientfotografien (Weimar 2013) J. Hannavy (ed.), Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. 1 A-I (New York 2008) M. Luchterhandt (ed.), Das unschuldige Auge. Orientbilder in der frühen Fotografie, Katalog zur Ausstellung Göttingen, Kunstsammlung der Universität, 23. April – 17. September 2017 (Petersberg 2017) C. W. Sui – A. Wieczorek (eds.), Ins Heilige Land. Pilgerstätten von Jerusalem bis Mekka und Medina, Katalog zur Ausstellung Mannheim, Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, 23. Juli – 5. November 2006 (Heidelberg 2006)


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