This arresting image of a veiled Turkish woman is one of a large series of costume studies produced by the prolific Maison Bonfils photography studio. Based in cosmopolitan Beirut, the studio was founded by the bookbinder-turned-photographer Félix Bonfils in 1867 and produced high-quality architectural views, landscapes, and genre studies of the Near East for more than seventy years. Initially a family business, the firm eventually employed a number of photographers, including Bonfils’s son Adrien and his wife, Marie-Lydie Cabanis. Marie-Lydie likely produced the costume studies of female subjects, since Muslim women would not have been permitted to pose for male photographers. Appealing to the curiosity and fantasies of tourists, these photographs also lent a perceived authenticity to paintings by artists such as Mariano Fortuny and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, who used them as studies for their popular Orientalist canvases.
Inscription: Inscribed in ink below image: "Türkische Frau"
[Alex Novak, Vintage Works Ltd., Chalfont, PA]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 64," March 11, 2014–June 17, 2014.
Gavin, Carney E. S. The Image of the East: Nineteenth-Century Near Eastern Photographs by Bonfils: From the Collections of the Harvard Semitic Museum, edited by Ingeborg Endter O'Reilly. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982. 81.