Autopsy of the First Crocodile Onboard, Upper Egypt
Ernest Benecke (German, born England, 1817–1894)
Salted paper print from paper negative
Image: 17.5 x 21.3 cm (6 7/8 x 8 3/8 in.)
Mount: 31.5 x 45.1 cm (12 3/8 x 17 3/4 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, William Talbott Hillman Foundation Gift, 2005
Not on view
This is perhaps the world’s first traveler snapshot, made on the deck of a traditional Nile vessel almost forty years before hand-held cameras, shutters, and fast film made the genre a possibility. In 1852, whether for business or simply on a young man’s grand tour, Benecke traveled throughout Egypt and the Mediterranean with a camera and a surprisingly humane spirit. The photographers who traveled there shortly before and after him, including Maxime Du Camp, Félix Teynard, and J. B. Greene, focused almost exclusively on the ancient monuments and landscape. Benecke, instead, documented the contemporary world with such keen sensitivity that his photographs, beyond their ethnographic value, present intimate and unaffected portraits of the region’s inhabitants.
Inscription: Inscribed in negative, BL: "Autopsie du Crocodille // Hte Egypte // E. Benecke 1852"; printed on mount, recto TC, above photograph: "HAUTE ÉGYPTE"; inscribed in pencil on mount, recto BL: "13" and "Autopsie du premier Crocodille // sur le bâteau."
Noble Bavarian family; W. Bockelberg; [Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Inc., New York]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, March 10, 1994
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
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.
Woodward, Richard B. "Ernest Benecke's Lost Treasure." New York Times March 6 (March 6, 1994).