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Geoffrey Belknap

(b Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort, March 8, 1831; d Alès, April 9, 1885).

French photographer and photographic printer. Bonfils is best known for his photographs of the Mediterranean and Middle East, particularly his five-volume Souvenirs d’Orient: Egypte. Palestine. Syrie. Grèce (1878). Prior to opening a studio briefly in Alès in 1865, he was apprenticed to Abel Niépce de St Victor (180570). Having travelled to Lebanon in 1860 with the French Army to intervene in the conflict between the Druse and the Maronites, Bonfils decided to return to Beirut in 1867 with his wife Marie-Lydie Cabanis and son Adrian to establish a photographic studio under the name La Maison Bonfils. From there Bonfils began his photographic tour of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Greece, and sold his views back in his studio. These views included (he claimed) 15,000 albumen prints and 9000 stereoscopic cards. La Maison Bonfils became well known throughout Lebanon, the Middle East, and Europe as a première photographic studio and attracted many tourists seeking photographs of the surrounding area and peoples. Bonfils’s success was compounded when he presented his photographs to the Société Française de Photographie in ...

Article

Ray McKenzie

(b Chesterfield, Derbys, 1822; d Cannes, Feb 25, 1898).

English photographer. He is noted for his studies of the Middle East and for establishing the largest photographic publishing firm in the 19th century. He was born into a Quaker family and spent five unrewarding years apprenticed to a cutler in Sheffield, suffering a nervous breakdown in 1843. After two years recuperative travel he became a successful businessman, first in wholesale groceries and later in printing. His involvement with photography began at this time. He was one of the founder-members of the Liverpool Photographic Society in 1853 and he exhibited portraits and landscapes to much critical acclaim.

The sale of Frith’s printing firm in 1854 financed the expeditions to Egypt and the Holy Land that were to establish his pre-eminence among early travel photographers. He made three trips between 1856 and 1860 (see fig.). On the first, he sailed up the Nile to the Second Cataract, recording the main historic monuments between Cairo and Abu Simbel. On the second, he struck eastwards to Palestine, visiting Jerusalem, Damascus and other sites associated with the life of Christ. The final expedition was the most ambitious, combining a second visit to the Holy Land with a deeper southward penetration of the Nile. His photographs of the temple at ...

Article

S. J. Vernoit

(b Mostaganem, March 14, 1930; d Mostaganem, 1991).

Algerian painter. A self-taught artist, he worked in France initially as a printer but later came to occupy a central position in the development of modern Algerian painting. He developed an abstract style of painting in the artistic milieu of Paris, exhibiting work at the Jeune Peintre exhibition in Paris in 1955, and at the Salon de Réalités Nouvelles in 1955, 1957 and 1958. On returning to Algeria in the early 1960s he devoted himself to painting, engraving and producing designs for the theatre, and in the following years he exhibited work in Europe, Japan, the Middle East, Russia and the USA. His paintings explore calligraphic compositions and motifs of Arab–Berber origin and display a sophisticated use of colour. Such oil paintings as Kabylie (1.14×1.62 m, 1960; Paris, Inst. Monde Arab.) and Olive Tree Mediterranean (1.16×0.89 m, 1977; see 1978 exh. cat.) were inspired by his experience of landscape. His works are in numerous collections, including the Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, and the Musée National des Beaux-Arts, Algiers....

Article

Mendel Metzger

Family of Jewish printers, active in Italy, Turkey and Egypt. They originated in Germany but emigrated to Lombardy and settled in Soncino near Crema in 1454, taking the name of the town as their patronymic. Their first printing press was set up in Soncino by Yoshua (d 1493) and Moses (d 1489), sons of Israel Nathan (d 1492?), a physician. The family was active between 1483, the date of Yoshua’s first book, and 1562, when the 184th and last publication was printed by his great-great-nephew in Cairo. Seven family members were printers: Yoshua, his brother Moses, Moses’s sons Solomon and Gershom [Hieronymus Soncinus] (d 1534), Gershom’s children Moses and Eliezer (d 1547) and Eliezer’s son Gershom (d 1562). Yoshua published only Hebrew books (42 editions, all incunabula) during his short career (1483–9 in Soncino, 1489–92 in Naples). Gershom’s career, however, was one of the longest (...