Watercolour ruins


Approach of the simoom—desert of Gizeh.

The paintings are by Scottish artist David Roberts (1796–1864) from two collections of prints of the Middle East, The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt and Nubia (1842–1845) and Egypt and Nubia (1846–1849). These are a small sample from many more at the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs archive, and as representations of places that most of the original viewers would never otherwise see they hold up very well beside photos of the same locations. (See this earlier post for photos of Thebes and Kom Ombo a few decades later.) I always enjoy old book illustrations of the Baalbec temple entrance for the way artists seldom resist doing the Piranesi trick of exaggerating its scale, the better to make its perilous keystone seem all the more precariously poised. The doorway is taller today (having been excavated) but less of a threat.


Baalbec, May 7th, 1839.


Statues of Memnon at Thebes, during the inundation.

Continue reading “Watercolour ruins”

Pascal Sébah


Studio portrait of models wearing traditional clothing from the provinces of Hedjaz (Hejaz), Yemen and Tripoli, Ottoman Empire (1873).

Photo prints by Turkish photographer Pascal Sébah (1823–1886) at the Library of Congress. I always like to see photos of ruins in the wild, so to speak, as they generally were in the 19th century before the imperatives of archaeology and mass tourism had cleaned, restored and reduced everything to the status of a museum exhibit or (in the case of the temple below) a shopping opportunity. There’s more of Pascal Sébah’s work at Wikimedia Commons.


Kôm Ombo (Sud Est) (The ruins of the Temple of Sobek and Haroeris at Ombos, Egypt, between 1860 and 1886).


Colosses de Memnon à Thèbes (between 1860 and 1890).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Alhambra cyanotypes
Constantinople, 1900
Edinburgh, 1929
Old Bunker Hill
Inondations 1910
Berenice Abbott
Eugene de Salignac
Luther Gerlach’s Los Angeles
The temples of Angkor
The Bradbury Building: Looking Backward from the Future
Edward Steichen
Karel Plicka’s views of Prague
Atget’s Paris
Downtown LA by Ansel Adams