Gilman Collection, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2005
Not on view
Until the discovery in 1992 of 143 photographs by Ernest Benecke, including this one, only a handful of images by him were known. Born to an Anglo-German family of textile merchants, Benecke managed the family's wool trading operations in Lille, France, and it was no doubt there that he learned to photograph.
Whether for business (the firm had a branch in Alexandria) or simply as a young man's grand tour, Benecke traveled throughout Egypt and the Mediterranean in 1852 armed with a camera and a surprisingly humane spirit. Maxime Du Camp and Félix Teynard had photographed there shortly before him and J. B. Greene would soon after, but these photographers focused almost exclusively on the monuments and landscape. Benecke, instead, photographed the villagers he met and did so with such sensitivity and ease that his images, beyond having ethnographic value, are intimate and unaffected portraits. Here, the children of Kalabshah, softly rendered by Benecke's paper negative and salted paper print, seem innocent echoes of their sculpted ancestors carved on the walls of the nearby temple.
Inscription: Inscribed in negative, BL: "82"; Printed in black ink on mount, TC: "NUBIE"; Inscribed in pencil on mount, recto BL: "7" and recto BR: "Enfants nubiens // Kalabshah, le 14 Mars 52"
W. Bockelberg (noble Bavarian family); [Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Inc., New York]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, March 10, 1994
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Howard Gilman Gallery: Inaugural Installation," October 16, 1997–February 1, 1998.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Along the Nile: Early Photographs of Egypt," September 11, 2001–December 30, 2001.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Master Photographs from the Gilman Collection: A Landmark Acquisition," June 28, 2005–September 6, 2005.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 50," January 6, 2009–May 3, 2009.
Woodward, Richard B. "Ernest Benecke's Lost Treasure." New York Times March 6 (March 6, 1994).