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Photograph album of views in the Maghreb and Egypt.

[c.1900] Stock Code: 143538
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Groundbreaking images of Tangier

Highly interesting album that includes an extensive series of scarce prints by Antonio Cavilla, whose pioneering studio in Tangier during the last two decades of the 19th century produced some of the finest images of the Maghreb; 19 of these carry his wet stamp on the print, and another 24 are unsigned but almost certainly from his atelier.

"'Nineteenth-century Morocco, unlike its next-door neighbour Algeria, was often inaccessible and indeed dangerous to foreigners with the exception of trading ports like Tangier. The country had never been part of the Ottoman Empire... By the 1860s, there were still few European businesses and probably no resident photographers... Cavilla was one of the earliest resident photographers in Tangier. For Morocco that was sometimes hostile to Westerners, "early" means c.1880s" (Jacobson). Antonio Cavilla (1867-1908) was a Gibraltarian and remains a little known figure. His father was a Genoese merchant and his mother had connections with North Africa, being the daughter of a French consular official stationed in Morocco. Later, his brother Enrique ran the Hotel Cavilla in Tangier. Antonio was apprenticed to his uncle Alexander at the Cavilla y Bruzón studio in Gibraltar and began commercial operations in Tangier at 18 in 1885, together with his partner Antonio G. Molinari. This partnership was dissolved within a few years and he returned to Gibraltar, before once more setting up in Tangier in 1892. His new studio was shrewdly located next to the British Consulate, in an alley near the Small Souk that came to bear his name. He became the principal supplier of images of Morocco to the tourist market.

Of the prints present here, 11 are identified in the negative as Algiers, including bustling scenes at the quay, the Opera House (now the Algerian National Theatre Mahieddine Bachtarzi), the governor's palace, Notre-Dame d'Afrique (construction of which was completed in 1872), the Sidi Abderrahman Mosque, superb Mauresque arches in the courtyard of the archbishop's palace, and two evocative street views. Of Tangier 3 are identified in the negative as the Custom House, grain market and a panoramic double-page view of the port; 21 are unidentified but six are of market scenes or festivals, while others show streetscapes, including Seagheen or Street of the Silversmiths, a fine view from the door of the Palace of the Pasha, inner courtyard of the Cape Spartel lighthouse, Gunpowder Festival in the Great Souk, Moorish architectural details, remains of the Roman aqueduct, and the Grand Mosque. There are 8 portraits or "types", including a boy with shaved head and a plait or garn on the right side and an 'orf, "consisting of a narrow line from front to back" (Westermarck, Vol. II, p. 409); there are 3 of water carriers, a snake charmer, and a memorable image of a guembri or sintir player, the traditional three stringed skin-covered plucked lute used by the Gnawa people.

In addition to the images from the Cavilla studio there are four views by the celebrated Zangaki brothers, active in Egypt and Algeria (2 of Port Said, 2 of the Suez Canal) and a single print by Pascal Sebah (Suez Canal).

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Landscape quarto (320 x 392 mm). Contemporary blue-green morocco-grain skiver, gilt-lettered spine, sides with single gilt fillet border ending in scrolls, gilt edges, pale blue Fantasy pattern marbled endpapers.


48 original albumen prints mounted on heavy card stock leaves, white linen stubs.


Spine sunned, some light abrasions to binding, worming to margins of a few mount leaves, scattered foxing and some dust marking, some images rather faint but a very good exemplar.


Ken Jacobson, Odalisques and Arabesques: Orientalist Photography 1839-1925 (2007); antoniocavilla.blogspot.com


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