jeudi 26 mai 2011

“Des tombes plus solides que les bâtiments d’habitation” (Joseph Bonomi - XIXe s.)

Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia illustrated (1862) est un ouvrage collectif dont les auteurs sont le protographe Francis Frith (1822-1898) pour les illustrations, Samuel Sharpe (1799-1881) pour les notes, et l’égyptologue Joseph Bonomi (1796-1878) pour les descriptions.
La qualité des clichés reproduits ici est de piètre qualité : on a quelque difficulté à y retrouver les détails des explications censées les commenter.
J’ai toutefois fait place à quelques extraits de cet ouvrage, par souci d’exhaustivité dans mon inventaire.
Tout commence par une leçon de photographie en stéréoscopie : une technique déjà rencontrée dans ce blog avec James Henry Breasted. Mais, est-il besoin de le répéter, le résultat n’est pas ici à la hauteur de notre attente. Je n’ai donc retenu que cinq clichés, directement liés aux pyramides... de près ou de loin !

“Here we have all the truth-fulness of nature, all the reality of the objects themselves, and, at the same time, artistic effects which leave us nothing to wish for.
The following sun-pictures of the ancient ruined buildings on the banks of the Nile were made for Messrs. Negretti and Zambra by Mr. Frith, during a visit to Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia, in the years 1859, 1860. They are one hundred in number. Every view is of two pictures almost the same, but not quite so. They are taken by two instruments at the same time, and not quite from the same spot. One is a view as seen by the right eye, and one as seen by the left eye. (...) In order to observe the effect gained by our having these two views of one object, we must look at them through the stereoscope or double eye-glass. By means of this, each eye looks at its own picture ; and the two pictures thus seen at the same time are carried separately by the optic nerves to the brain, where they meet as one ; and we then see every object on the flat paper as if it were solid. (...) Every line in one picture is distant from the same line in the other picture by about two inches and thirteen sixteenths of an inch, which is the distance in most persons between the two eyes. (...)”

Plate II : Cairo and distant view of Pyramids
“This view is taken (...) from the top of a house, probably in the citadel. Nearly in the centre of the picture the three great pyramids of Gizeh break the horizontal line of the Lybian desert ; and below the second the head of the Sphinx is just discernible. More to the left, over Old Cairo, the Nile is seen ; and in the barren plain, between the river and the most distant houses, a faint streak marks out the direction of the aquaduct which conveys water to the ancient well of the citadel. To the right is one of those artificial mounds, the accumulation of the rubbish of the city which, like the Monte Testaccio of Rome, is chiefly composed of broken pottery ; then the houses of the south-western quarter of the city, among which, intersected by a minaret, is a white building in the Turkish style, a palace of the late Ibrahim Pasha. Conspicuously prominent in the foreground is one of those contrivances called a malakef, a sloping shed of boards directed towards the north or north-west, to arrest and conduct to an open apartment below, the cool breezes which generally blow from those quarters. In the present example the side planks are wanting.”

Plate III : the Pyramids of Gizeh
“Then had I been at rest, with kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves." Job III, 14.
“Whether the writer of these words ever saw or heard of this vast desert plain strewn with the most ancient, the most costly, and the largest and most durable tombs ever devised by the art of man, may be matter of doubt ; but certainly there is no spot on the earth to which those words so aptly apply, and with so much force from the greatest antiquity down to the present moment, as to this desert of Gizeh.
 There is not, in all the world besides, a continuous cemetery fifty miles in extent. There is not, in all the world besides, a spot where there are so many costly and solid structures, which the kings and counsellors of the earth have built for themselves during their own lives. Not after death or by others were their monuments erected, as was that celebrated tomb which Queen Artemisia built for Mausolus, her husband ; but for and by themselves in these desolate plains of Gizeh.
It was the custom in Egypt for the “kings and counsellors", and those who could afford to build at all, to build their own tombs, and in a more solid form than the buildings occupied by them while living ; and the site they chose was always in the desert land on the western side of the Nile. To this circumstance of building the tomb during life, is attributed the great dimensions of the larger pyramids of Gizeh, which are the tombs of kings whose reigns were both longer and more prosperous than were those of the other kings whose resting-places lie contiguous in the same desolate place. The view before us is taken from the cultivatable plain to the south of the pyramids, and the dark, black alluvium contrasts strongly with the desert sand. On the right is the largest pyramid ; then follows that which is called the second pyramid.
Still on the upper part of this second largest building in the world, is a piece of the casing, which is made of a fine kind of limestone brought from the quarries on the eastern side of the Nile. To climb over this crust and attain to the summit is a difficult and dangerous task ; accordingly there are persons found, even in this desert of Gizeh, who are ready and willing to give money to see a poor inhabitant of a neighbouring village risk his life in so doing, just as in populous London, persons, who esteem themselves still more civilized, are willing to pay to see a man risk his life on a tight rope at the Crystal Palace. The whole of this crust or casing has been removed from the greater pyramid, and from the lower part of the second, these monuments having served as quarries for all the stone constructions in the province of Gizeh and its neighbourhood, certainly ever since the conquest of the country by the Mohammedans, if not before that time.”

Plate IV : The Great Pyramid and head of Sphinx
“In the foreground of this picture are some new excavations which have laid bare certain ancient galleries cut in the living rock and covered by large well-squared blocks. These subterranean galleries very much resemble those opened by Colonel Vyse, and called by him "Campbell's Tomb".
 Beyond is the head of the Sphinx, which is the recumbent statue of a lion with a human head, and carved out of the numulitic rock on which the Pyramids stand, and of which their chief bulk consists. This huge statue is buried up to the top of its back in the encroaching sands of the Lybian desert. Farther in the distance is the great Pyramid showing its southern and eastern sides, and the three small pyramids contiguous. These small pyramids were opened by Colonel Vyse, and since his time all the blocks of fine limestone which lined the chambers of these structures have been removed. There is a manufactory of stone mortars for pounding indigo constantly going on, and as the mortars are made out of the fine limestone of all these ancient buildings (besides what is broken up and carried away for mending the dykes and bridges of a whole province), the extent of the destruction may easily be imagined.
The colossal Sphinx, of which the head is here seen by the side of the largest pyramid, that of Nef-chofo, lies in front of the oldest pyramid, that of Chofo, which is second in size. It was in all probability made at the same time as Chofo's pyramid, to which it is an ornament.”

Plate V : Gizeh during the inundations
“For three months in the year the villages and towns of this remarkable country become islands or promontories, joined to the desert, or to some town nearer to the banks of the river, by an artificial dyke. 
This artificial dyke serves the double purpose of road, and of wall to retain the waters of the inundation till they have deposited the fertilising soil over the surface of the fields. During the inundation, these dykes are the only means of travelling, except by boat on the Nile, which may be called the main road throughout the country. This view of Gizeh is taken from the foot of the pyramid in the desert looking towards the east.
Herodotus informs us that during the summer months there is a constant wind blowing from the north ; and you will see, on closer inspection of the photograph, all the date-trees inclining to the right, agitated by the Etesian wind which rushes up the valley of the Nile from the Mediterranean
Sea to temper the heated air of the desert plains, which form the boundary of Egypt to the east and west. There is not a single stone in the village wall or in any of the huts that has been honestly cut out of the quarry, but every one has been stolen out of the ancient tombs in the neighbourhood.”

Plate VI : the quarries of Toura and Pyramids
“In this one little picture we have brought together the most ancient monuments of civilized man now existing on the face of the globe and the most recent invention ; for, in the distance, are the pyramids of Gizeh, and in the plain, in the foreground, may be seen the poles of the telegraph wires.
From these quarries, it is said, the stone which forms the casing of the two great pyramids was taken, and in one of the excavations may be seen an ancient carving representing the mode of moving blocks of stone from the quarry. On the roof of the houses of the military establishment at Toura are many perfect samples of the contrivance for catching the north wind, which, with the position of the Pyramids, mark the cardinal points in this picture, and declare the time at which this view was taken to be the afternoon.
The dark background to the rather conspicuous Turkish house, provided with two Malakef, is formed by some fine specimens of the sycamore fig-tree. A small island to the right, about a mile in length, intercepts the view of the main stream between it and the Pyramids ; but further in and to the left is the smaller stream, called the Bahr Usuf. This stream takes its departure from the Nile in the Hermopolite nome about 130 miles south of this spot, and after supplying anciently the artificial lake, Moeris, maunders close along the margin of the desert, entering the Rosetta branch of the Nile forty miles north of the spot.”

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