Gustave Le Gray (French, 18201884)
Albumen silver print from paper negative; 12 3/4 x 16 1/8 in. (31.4 x 41 cm)
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005 (2005.100.192)
This photograph, taken in the great court of the Temple of Horus at Edfu, shows members of the party accompanying the sons of Egypt's viceroy Ismacil Pasha on their voyage through the country. The Temple of Edfu, built by the Ptolemy dynasty between 237 and 57 B.C., is the best preserved of all Egyptian temples. It had remained buried in the sands until it was cleared by the archaeologist Auguste Mariette in 1859. It is tempting to recognize Mariette in the bearded figure at the center of the picture, and Le Gray himself in the European gentleman on the left.
The print is among the largest produced from a paper negative. Its size emphasized the imposing scale of the court, where the party of visitors seems all but lost. By the time it was made, the use of the paper negative had been all but abandoned in favor of the glass plate, which produced a much crisper image. Le Gray, who had done so much to improve and disseminate the technique of the paper negative, was among the last to make use of it.