J. Pascal Sébah (Turkish, 18231886)
Albumen silver print from glass negative; 7 7/8 x 10 1/2 in. (20 x 26.7 cm)
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1973 (1973.594.55)
The Gezira Palace stands on the eponymous island located in the Nile River in the center of Cairo. The island was first developed with lush gardens and a summer palace by the khedive Ismacil (r. 186379), and he also chose it as the site for this palace built to host the Empress Eugénie of France for the grand opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Afterwards, it would also house such state guests as the Prince and Princess of Wales and Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary. Construction of the palace lasted many years and involved several architects, but the project was started by Ismacil's chief court architect, the German Julius Frantz Pasha. The U-shaped building was lavishly ornamented with decoration often compared to that of the Alhambra in Spain. After Ismacil's death, the state appropriated the palace in lieu of the khedive's debts and transformed it into a hotel; among its many guests was the author Agatha Christie.
This photograph comes from an album compiled in 1885, and is signed by J. Pascal Sébah. Such albums were compiled by tourists, who selected the photographs they wanted from professional studios in the countries to which they traveled. Sébah is known to have worked in Istanbul, but he traveled extensively throughout the region to build up his collection of prints to sell.