Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey

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1840 self-portrait.

Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (21 October 1804 – 7 December 1892) was a French photographer and draughtsman who was active in the Middle East. His daguerreotypes are the earliest surviving photographs of Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Remarkably, his photographs were only discovered in the 1920s in a storeroom of his estate and then only became known eighty years later.[1]


Girault de Prangey studied painting in Paris at the École des Beaux-Arts, and in 1841 he learned daguerreotypy, possibly from Louis Daguerre himself or from Hippolyte Bayard. Girault de Prangey was keenly interested in the architecture of the Middle East, and he toured Italy and the countries of the eastern Mediterranean between 1841 and 1844, producing more than 900 daguerreotypes of architectural views, landscapes, and portraits.[1]

After his return to France, he made watercolour and pen-and-ink studies after his photographs and published a small-edition book of lithographs from them. He also made stereographs of his estate and the exotic plants he collected. He did not exhibit or otherwise make his photographs known during his lifetime.[1]


In May 2003, Sheikh Saud Al Thani of Qatar purchased a daguerreotype by Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey for a world-record price of £565,250 or $922,488.[1]

On 30 January 2019, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened "Monumental Journey: The Daguerreotypes of Girault de Prangey". Approximately 120 photographs that the amateur archaeologist created in Greece, Egypt, Syria, Turkey and the Levant during a self-financed tour of the region in the early 1840s were presented. They included the Parthenon in Athens, the Khayrbak Mosque in Cairo, and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Organized with the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, it was the first comprehensive exhibition in America devoted to the French artist.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2019, pg. A15 (only with subscription).

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