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Vignes (Louis) Views and Panoramas
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Louis Vignes views and panoramas of Beirut and the ruins of Palmyra
    Date (inclusive): 1864
    Number: 2015.R.15
    Creator/Collector: Vignes, Louis, 1831-1896
    Physical Description: 47 photographic prints (2 boxes)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The collection of 47 photographs contains views of the city of Beirut, Lebanon and the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra and the town of Al-Rastan in Syria, taken by Louis Vignes in 1864 when he accompanied Honoré Théodoric d'Albert, duc de Luynes, on his expedition to the Dead Sea region. They represent the earliest photographs of the remains of Roman Palmyra and are also among the earliest photographs of Beirut.
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    Language: Collection material is in No linguistic content.

    Biographical / Historical

    Louis Vignes (1831-1896) was born in Bordeaux, France, where his father was director of the mint. Vignes entered the École Navale in 1846 at age 15. He rose steadily through the naval ranks and by 1860 he had directed the building of the port of Beirut and attained the rank of lieutenant. In 1862, Vignes captained a steamer attached to the division of the coasts of Syria. By the end of his long and successful naval career Vignes had attained the rank of vice admiral and had become Inspecteur général de la Marine.
    Early in his career Vignes was already practicing photography as an amateur, but how or where he obtained photographic training is unknown. Between June 1859 and October 1862, while pursuing his naval duties, Vignes traveled from the south of France to Lebanon via Sicily, Turkey and the Palestine. During his tour of duty around the Mediterranean basin he made the 52 calotype negatives of landscapes, monuments, and sites now held in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Photographies négatives de Louis Vignes, FRBNF41425799). That he also photographed naval life as well is evidenced by a group of portraits he made of himself and his fellow ship's officers in 1859 that are held in the present repository (accession no. 2016.R.40).
    Vignes met Honoré Théodoric d'Albert, duc de Luynes, in October 1863, while the latter was staying in Hyères, France. Luynes, who was planning his first expedition to the Dead Sea region, recruited Vignes to serve as the expedition's climatologist and photographer. Vignes's knowledge of photography, together with his familiarity with Syria and the Middle East, his demonstrated military leadership, and his navigational skills and knowledge of astronomy, made him an ideal member of the expedition. Vignes was granted leave from the navy effective February 1, 1864, and by the ninth of the month he and the other expedition members had set sail from Marseilles.
    The expedition reached Beirut on the twenty-first of February, 1864. There, Vignes took at least one two-part panorama of the city before the travelers moved on to Jerusalem via Sidon and Tyr, and then headed to the Dead Sea. The expedition traversed both the west and east sides of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea in Le S­égor, an iron boat that could be dismantled and transported by camels, that Luynes had had built in the shipyards of Seyne, France. Unfortunately, Luynes was compelled to leave the expedition at Petra on the seventh of June due to illness. Vignes and the other members of the expedition - geologist Louis Lartet and naturalist Dr. Gustave Combe - completed the expedition, returning to Beirut on June 24.
    Vignes remained in Beirut after the other two men had returned to France, as he still had another commission to complete for Luynes, that of making a photographic record of the ruins of ancient Palmyra. After fulfilling his mission in the fall of 1864, Vignes returned to France. From that time forward he seems to have devoted himself exclusively to his increasingly important naval positions, and any photographs he may have made after 1864 have yet to come to light.
    Fifty-two of Vignes's photographs from the Dead Sea expedition were reproduced as photogravures by Charles N­ègre for the Atlas of the duke's account of the expedition, Voyage d'exploration ­à la mer Morte, ­à Petra, et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain , published in 1875, eight years after Luynes's death. N­ègre (1820-1880) had studied with the academicians Paul Delaroche and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, who encouraged him to explore the newly emerging medium of photography for use as a painting aid. N­ègre, who pursued painting, photography, and printing throughout his career, made his first daguerreotype landscapes in 1844 and began making calotypes in 1848. In 1851, Nègre became one of the founding members of the Soci­ét­é Héliographique, the first French organization dedicated to photographic endeavors.
    As the photographic aspect of his career progressed, N­ègre became known for his well-crafted heliographs, a type of photogravure, and by 1856 he had patented his own version of Nic­éphore Ni­épce's heliographic process (h­éliogravure), which he named paniconography. His dedication to the perfection of the h­eliograph was prompted in large part by his pursuit of the 8,000-franc prize Luynes had announced in 1856 for the invention of the photomechanical process that could best reproduce photographs for publication. In 1865, when Luynes gave Nègre the negatives Vignes had taken during the expedition, including those from Palmyra, commissioning him to make both photographic prints and photogravures from them, the prize had not yet been awarded. Although Luynes himself preferred Nègre's photogravure process, the independent jury finally awarded the prize to Louis-Alphonse Poitevin for his photolithographic process in 1867.
    Sources consulted:
    Aubenas, Sylvie, "Louis Vignes (1831-1896)." BNF Shared Heritage, Biblothèques d'Orient . https://heritage.bnf.fr/bibliothequesorient/en/louis-vigne-art
    Foliot, Philippe. "Louis Vignes and Henry Sauvaire, Photographers on the Expeditions of the Duc de Luynes." In History of Photography, 14:3 (1990) 233-250, DOI:10.1080/03087298.1990.10442460. https://doi.org/10.1080/03087298.1990.10442460
    Hellman, Karen Reed. "Le Secq, Henri (Jean-Louis Henri Le Secq des Tournelles), 1818-1882." In Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, edited by John Hannavy, II:837-839. London: Taylor ­& Francis, 2008.
    Luynes, Honor­é d'Albert, duc de. Voyage d'exploration ­à la mer Morte, ­à Petra, et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain . Paris: Arthus Bertrand, ­éditeur, 1874.
    Martini, Jean-Mathieu. "At a Crossroads." In Henri Sauvaire (1831-1896): voyage d'exposition a Hebron, Karak, Djafar, El-Heca, Chaubak, Dausak, Twahn­é et Zatt-Rass . Munich: Daniel Blau, 2015.
    Montiero, Stephen. "N­ègre, Charles (1820-1880)." In Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography , edited by John Hannavy, II:982-985. London: Taylor ­& Francis, 2008.
    Paviot, Alain. Le voyage du duc de Luynes: photographies de Louis Vignes, [exposition], 6 mars-13 mai 1980: voyage d'exploration ­à la mer Morte, ­à Petra, et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain, f­évier-juin 1864 . Paris: Galerie Octant, 1980.
    Terpak, Fran, "Acquisition Approval Form for 'Louis Vignes (French, 1831-1896), 47 Photographs of Palmyra and Beirut, Albumen Prints, 1864,'" accession no. 2015.R.15, May 20, 2015.

    Administrative Information


    Restricted. Contact the repository for information regarding access.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Louis Vignes views and panoramas of Beirut and the ruins of Palmyra, 1864, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2015.R.15.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 2015.

    Processing History

    The collection was processed by Beth Ann Guynn in 2015 who wrote the finding aid in 2020.

    Digitzed Materials

    The collection was digitized in 2015 and the images are available online:

    Related Archival Materials

    The repository holds a significant body of materials related to Louis Vignes and the duc de Luynes's expeditions. Materials relating to the duc de Luynes's expeditions to the Dead Sea region, accession no. 2019.M.20, is an extensive collection of both visual and written materials from both Luynes's 1864 and 1866 expeditions. Voyage d'exploration à la mer Morte, à Petra, et sur la rive gauche du Jourdain par M. le duc de Luynes; œuvre posthume publiée par ses petits-fils sous la direction de M. le comte de Vogüé , 1874, id no. 2850-401, is the three-volume publication resulting from the expedition. Photographs from the 1866 expedition are found in Henri Joseph Sauvaire photographs from the duc de Luynes's second expedition to the Holy Land, accession no. 2019.R.32.
    Several collections comprise materials related more directly to Vignes's photographic output during the 1864 expedition. Of particular note is an album of photographs by him, Vues de Phénicie, de Judée, des pays de Moab et de Petra / photographiées par M. Vignes Lieutenant de vaisseau pendant son voyage, en 1864, avec le duc de Luynes de Beyrouth à la mer Rouge et son retour avec M. Lartet de Jérusalem à Damas par la rive gauche du Jourdain , accession no. 2012.R.14. Photographic reproductions of two maps drawn by Vignes, with assistance from Dr. Gustave Combe, are found in Louis Vignes maps from the duc de Luynes's expedition to the Dead Sea, accession no. 2015.R.16. Thirty-three loose photogravure plates made by Charles Nègre after Vignes's photographs and published in Voyage d'exploration à la mer Morte , are contained in the Ken and Jenny Jacobson Orientalist photography collection, accession no. 2008.R.3. Two versions of a view from Mar Saba (a two-part photographic panorama by Vignes and a photogravure after it by Nègre) can be found in the Joachim Bonnemaison collection of panorama photographs, accession no. 98.R.19. Finally, a self-portrait that Vignes took at age 28, five years before he accompanied Luynes to the Dead Sea, forms part of the Louis Vignes self-portrait and portraits of naval officers, accession number 2016.R.40.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection comprises 47 photographic views of the city of Beirut, Lebanon, the ruins of the Roman city of Palmyra, and the village of Rastan (al-Rastan, Ar-Rastan) taken by Louis Vignes following the conclusion of the duc de Luynes's first expedition to the Dead Sea region in 1864. Vignes's photographs of Palmyra are the earliest taken of the ruins and, as such, mark the beginning of modern documentation of the site. His photographs of Beirut are also among the earliest photographs taken of that city.
    After the remaining members of the Luynes expedition had returned to France, Vignes waited out the summer heat before traveling to Palmyra from Tripoli via Homs and Hamah, two ancient cities on the Orontes River. He was accompanied on the journey, which lasted from September 15 to October 11, by a naval cadet named Fouet. The men reached Palmyra on September 28, leaving the site on the second of October. Twenty-nine of the 35 photographs Vignes took of Palmyra are present in the collection, including two panoramic views of the site consisting of two and three prints respectively. The three-part panorama was taken from Diocletian's monument. Twenty-four single prints depict the site from various vantage points and show its monumental 3,000 foot-long colonnade, the triumphal arch, the Temple of Bel and Temple Baal Shamin, the monument of Diocletian, and the tower tombs in the Valley of the Tombs bordering the city on its southwest side.
    While the specific views Vignes took during the expedition when Luynes was present were made at the express request of the duke, as evidenced by his diary entries (published posthumously in Voyage d'exploration ­à la mer Morte…), those he made at Palmyra must necessarily have been of his own decision, guided perhaps by the duke's general instructions to "precisely map the exact position of the ruins."
    On their return route Vignes and his party turned north at Homs towards Rastan, a village built on the Roman site of Arethusa which was established in the third century B.C. They made camp there on October 6. The river Orontes, which flows northward from Lebanon through Syria and Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea, is the subject of two of the three photographs related to Rastan present in the collection. The third image is a view of the expedition's camp at Rastan. Vignes returned to Beirut on October 12 before returning to France with the fruits of his labors.
    The city and port of Beirut, the most significant Middle Eastern trading center in the mid-nineteenth century, is documented in the collection by one four-part and three two-part panoramas. Vignes took one of his two-part panoramas of Beirut from the house of Aim­é P­éreti­é, the dragoman-chancellor of the French consulate in Beirut and a well-known collector of antiquities. This, along with an image of the salon in P­éreti­é's home, was most likely made when Vignes first arrived in Beirut with Luynes and the other expedition members. Three single photographs depicting the city's famed stone or umbrella pines, and one showing the road to Damascus complete the photographs of Beirut.
    Excepting one of the two-part panoramas of Beirut, Vignes used dry collodion glass plate negatives to produce the images found in this collection. In 1865, the duc de Luynes commissioned Charles N­ègre to print albumen photographs from all of the negatives Vignes took during the expedition. The photographs in this collection formed part of the original set of albumen prints N­ègre produced for the duke's personal collection, and were presumably completed before Luynes's death in 1867. Unlike Vignes's photographs from the Dead Sea, the Palmyra images were not reproduced by N­ègre as photogravures, and consequently had never been published prior to being acquired by the repository.


    Arranged in a single series: Series I. Louis Vignes views and panoramas of Beirut and the ruins of Palmyra, 1864.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Nègre, Charles, 1820-1880

    Subjects - Topics

    Antiquities, Roman -- Syria
    Architecture, Ancient -- Syria
    Stone pines -- Beirut -- Lebanon

    Subjects - Places

    Beirut (Lebanon) -- Description and travel
    Orontes River -- Description and travel
    Palmyra (Syria) -- Antiquities
    Rastan (Syria) -- Description and travel

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Photographs, Original.
    Albumen prints -- Lebanon -- 19th century
    Albumen prints -- Syria -- 19th century
    Panoramas -- Lebanon
    Panoramas -- Syria


    Vignes, Louis, 1831-1896