The Levant Felix Bonfils The Levant
Early Large Albumin prints "VUES DE TOUT L' ORIENT par Felix Bonfils" Early large Albumin prints


Bonfils No. 1

Alexandrie - Place des Consuls / Alexandrie - Consuls' Palace / Alexandrie - Der Consulenplatz

Backside of
Alexandrie - Place des Consuls / Alexandrie - Consuls' Palace / Alexandrie - Der Consulenplatz

This page depicts a set of early large format Albumin prints of Egypt by Felix Bonfils. The photographs are all part of the series
These large format albumen prints measure, 38.8 cm x 28.6 cm (15 1/4" x 11 1/4" inch.)

All photographs are mounted on their original decorative card-board, 62.5cm x 48,5 cm (25" x 18 3/4") with letterpress caption
"Vues de Tout l'Orient par Bonfils Phot. A Alais (Gard)" AlaisTyp. Lith. A. Brugueirolle & Cie"

The image on top of this page , 'Alexandrie - Consuls' Palace', clearly shows in the negative
No. 1
On the backsides of all boards there is a detailed description in French, English & German, describing the depicted subjects.
Some images depicted here show a detail or the description on the backside on mouse-over

Bonfils No. 22

Temple de Chafra. Sphinx & Pyramide de Khéops / Temple of Chaffra, Sphynx and Pyramid of Cheops
Pyramid Des Cheops, Sphinx und Tempel des Cafra

Backside of
Temple de Chafra. Sphinx & Pyramide de Khéops / Temple of Chaffra, Sphynx and Pyramid of Cheops
Pyramid Des Cheops, Sphinx und Tempel des Cafra

The illustrated series is part of a larger set, partly in the collection of 'Visual Media' and 'The Fogg Art Museum', Fine Arts Library
Harvard University. Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, Cataloguer for Islamic Art, Jeffrey B. Spurr.

Further information on Bonfils' photographs can be found in "The image of the East: nineteenth-century Near Eastern photographs by Bonfils" GAVIN, CARNEY E.S. From the collections of the Harvard Semitic Museum. Compiled and edited by Ingeborg Endter O’Reilly.

This size of views from the Orient by F. Bonfils seems to be very unusual. At the end of the series seen on this page, I reproduce an e-mail send to a photohistory mailing group by Bill Becker, director of the American Museum of Photography. for further reference

Bonfils No. 24

Les trois Pyramides / The three Pyramids / Ansicht Der Drei Kleinen Pyramiden


Bonfils No. 19

Arbre de la Vierge a Mataryèh / The Virgin's tree at Mataryeh Héliopolis / Der Baum der jungfrau in Matarieh

Reference by Ken Jacobson
"Bonfils opened his studio in Beirut in 1867. The earliest prints, late 1860's, have a black signature, "F. Bonfils" or "Bonfils". I have a copy of the 1876 Bonfils catalogue described by Bill Becker (below) and it indicates which images are available in which format. The largest mounted images of Bonfils often contained the stamp "Vues de Tout L'Orient". I can confirm these are Bonfils images. The 30 x 40 cm images are not from the earliest series as Bonfils did not initially have a camera that large. The 30 x 40 cm prints negatives appear to have been taken in the 1870's and sometimes have a small white printed signature in the negative". Ken Jacobson

Bonfils No. 23

Le Sphynx / The Sphynx / Die Sphinx


Bonfils No. 9

Citadelle du Caire / Citadel of Cairo / Die Citadelle von Kairo


Bonfils No. 15

Le Caire, pris de la Citadelle / Cairo taken from the Citadel / Kairo, Von Der Citadelle Ausgesehen

Bonfils No. 18

Obélisque d' Héliopolis à Mataryèh / Obelisk of Heliopolis at Mataryeh
Obelisk Von Heliopolis Mataryèh


Bonfils No. ?

Alexandrie - Obélisque ou Aiguilles de Cléopatre / Alexandria - Obelisks or Cleopatra's needles
Alexandrie - Obelisk oder Nadel Der Kleopatra


Bonfils No. 2

Alexandrie - Colonne Pompée / Alexandria - Pompey's Column
Alexandria - Die Pompejus Saule


Bonfils No. ?

Montagne des Tombeaux des Rois ou de Biban-El-Molouk / Rock-cut Sepulchres of the Kings
Theben - Die Koningsgraber Im Gebirg


Bonfils No. 58

Vallée des tombeaux - Bab-El-Molouk Thèbes / Valley of Tombs - Bab-El-Molouk Thebe
Das Græberthal - Bab-El-Molouk Bab-El-Molok

Bonfils No. 10

Tombeaux des Khalifes - El-Achraf / Tombs of the Caliphs - El-Ashraf
Graeber Der Kalifen - El-Aschraf


Bonfils No. 20

Barrage du Nil près du Caire / Dam of the Nile near Cairo / Nilwehr Bei Kairo Barrage du Nil


Bonfils No. 26
Boat used by Bonfils to travel the Nile with his photo equipment

Dahabieh de Voyageurs sur le Nil / Dahabieh or travellers' Boat on the Nile
Dahabiek Auf dem Nil Dahabieh du prince Arthur sur le nil

Reference by Bill Becker:

"Some years ago, Carney E. S. Gavin was kind enough to send me his articles on the Bonfils family of photographers. His research provides some insight into the very unusual photographs presented by Thomas Weynants.

I first reviewed the handlist of the exhibition "Remembrances of the Near East: The Photographs of Bonfils, 1867-1907" shown at Eastman House in 1980. A few of the 187 listed images are cartes de visite, but the rest are all approximately 22 x 28 cm.

From Dr. Gavin's "Bonfils and the Early Photography of the Near East" (Harvard Library Bulletin, vol. XXVI, Number 4, October 1978) we learn that there is an 1876 catalogue of Bonfils images, issued by the studio and published in Alais in 1876, in the collection of the Harvard Library. This catalogue "lists for sale 99 stereoscopic costume studies, 33 (18 x 24 cm.) costume study prints, and some 550 photographs of sites in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Syria Minor, and Greece, available in stereoscope or as prints in three formats (30 x 40, 24 x 30, 18 x 24 cm.)"

It is not clear to me whether the catalogue actually indicates that every one of the 550 subjects were available in all four formats. Other contemporaneous sales lists, for example those of Edouard-Denis Baldus of Paris and James Anderson of Rome, show certain subjects were available in both large and small formats, but many others were only available in one format. As Dr. Gavin notes elsewhere in his writings on Bonfils, it was standard practice for photographers visiting remote locations to take several cameras and to make images in multiple formats at each scene.

I can not recall ever seeing a Bonfils image as large as 11-1/4 x 15-1/4 inches -- the print size of the 30 x 40 format photographs discovered by Thomas Weynants. My feeling is that these are rare, and judging from the appearance of them on Thomas's website, I would venture to say they are quite early-- almost certainly from the 1860s. (Dr. Gavin says family tradition dates Bonfils' first visit to the Near East to 1860, when he accompanied the French expeditionary force; the accepted date of the founding of "Maison Bonfils" in Beirut is 1867.)

By 1871, Bonfils boasted of having produced 15,000 prints and 9,000 stereoscopic cards. If all of his subjects were available in the large 30 x 40 cm format, why have so few survived?"

Bill Becker
American Museum of Photography

The last image on this page, for comparison, depicts a photograph of the Sphynx by
Pascal Sebah

'The Sphynx' by Pascal Sebah

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