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Album fotografico della Persia, 1860

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Album fotografico della Persia

Scope and Content of Collection

The album of salted paper and albumen photographic prints contains 21 views of Tehran and environs, followed by 21 views of ancient Persian sites, all of which Pesce made for his employer, Nasir al-Din Shah. Although Pesce first presented his photographs to the Shah, in this album he has "repurposed" a set of prints as a personal gift to Sir Henry Rawlinson. Just as the monuments, edifices, and subjects of the bas-reliefs Pesce depicted for the Shah can be seen to relate to the Qajar court, so can specific images included in the present album be seen to allude to Rawlinson's own achievments. Thus, the inclusion of a cuneiform inscription acknowledges Rawlinson's scholarly interests and contributions, while bas-reliefs of soldiers and of Darius's army flanking the great staircase at Persepolis can be seen as allusions to his vital military role in Persia, including his mustering and training of the Guran, a Kurdish mountain tribe.

The views of Tehran and environs include historic monuments such as the Mogul mausoleum of Ilkahan Uljāytū Khudābandah, known as the Dome of Soltaniyeh; views of the city's gates; and Qajar buildings such as Golestan Palace and the military school, headquarters, and residence. Many of these structures have either been radically altered or no longer exist, such as the three city gates documented in the album. Several views of the Golestan Palace record buildings and architectural and decorative details that were destroyed or modified in the course of subsequent restorations. Other photographs, such as the view of the military school, appear to be the only visual documentations of Qajar buildings that are no longer extant.

Ancient Persian sites depicted in the album include the Achaemenid ruins of Persepolis, the Achaemenid tombs and Sasanian reliefs at Naqsh-i Rustam near Persepolis, and the Sasanian reliefs at Tāq-e Bostān in Kirmānshāhān province. These photographs are not only the earliest photographs of these sites, but the specific subjects of the reliefs chosen for inclusion can be seen as illustrating the symbolic relationship between the mid-ninteenth century Qajar court and the ancient Persian Empire.

Included with the album is a brief handwritten note regarding H. C. Rawlinson written on the letterhead of the Commander-in-Chief in India and signed: Cin in C India 1921 (i.e. General Henry Seymour Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson, and son of H. C. Rawlinson).

The album is quarter-bound in leather with floral Qajar-style lacquer covers. The front and back paste-downs, also in the Qajar style, have central cartouches depicting a bird among flowers.

The free front endpaper contains a handwritten title: Album Fotografico / della / Persia / Compilato dal Sig.r Luigi Pesce, Tenente Colonnello / Instruttore d'Infanteria al servizio dello Shah / Teheran.

The dedication on the flyleaf reads: A Sua Eccellenza / Il Signor Generale Enrico Rawlinson / Ministro Plenipotenziario di Sua Maestà la Regina / d'Inghilterra / et. et. et. / presso / La corte dello Shah di Persia / Teheran 12 Maggio 1860 / In omaggio.

Captions are handwritten on the mounts in Italian. The photographs are signed in the negative: L. Pesce.

Also included in the collection is a lithograph portrait of Rawlinson by an unidentified artist.


Arranged in a single series:
Album fotografico della Persia, 1860.

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