Teynard (1817-1892) was a French civil engineer who practiced in Grenoble. He visited Egypt in 1851-52 expressly to make a photographic companion to Description de l'Egypte, the lavish publication issued by Napoleon's team of savants between 1809 and 1829. Teynard understood that the engravings in the book, however grand, were inadequate; they could not compete with photography's direct apprehension of the visual experience of a place. The stunning contrasts of light and shadow or the touchingly slight intrusion of the present in this ancient land (both evident in the eloquent photograph at the right), could best be conveyed with the new medium. The work reveals a man who had an uncommon grasp of the physicality of man-made constructions: their size and placement in space, their materials and decoration, and their state of conservation, destruction, or desecration. We see evidence of Teynard's training in engineering, that most pragmatic and grounded profession of mensuration, observation, and analysis. The pictures also reveal that Teynard served his pursuit of practical knowledge with an original and vigorous vision and a technical mastery matched only by the best photographers of his day. Teynard commented that the site of the Temple of Dendur was well protected from flooding by the Nile due to its placement on a high rock outcrop. He could not have known, of course, that twentieth-century engineers would reshape the landscape. Lake Nasser, the reservoir of the Aswan High Dam (1960-69), now covers this very location; the Temple of Dendur, a gift to the United States from the Arab Republic of Egypt in March 1965, is installed in this museum.
Lucien Goldschmidt, Inc.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Egypt in the Nineteenth Century," April 1, 1979–April 30, 1979.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Oasis for the Eye: Felix Teynard Photographs of Egypt, 1851-1852," June 12, 1990–September 9, 1990.
Howe, Kathleen Stewart. Félix Teynard, Calotypes of Egypt: A Catalogue Raisonné. New York: Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs, 1992. p. 191.