This photograph shows part of the minaret at the complex of Sultan Qala'un, which included a mosque, madrasa and hospital (or Maristan). It was built during the early Mamluk period in the 13th century and was the most ambitious architectural project of the period. The hospital, known as the Mansuri Hospital, was the first public hospital in Cairo, one of the largest ever built, and had its own pharmacy, library and lecture halls. The complex of buildings survives today in modern Cairo, much altered and restored, although the hospital was replaced by a new building in the 1920s. This minaret is recognisable today only by its architectural form incorporating square lower and middle storeys. The contrasting pattern of black stone and white marble, shown to such great effect here, no longer exists.
For another daguerreotype from the same building see lot 76. There are approximately four others in the archive each showing different aspects of the minaret and wall at street level.
This picture must surely be as close to abstract as it is possible to go while still following a self-imposed brief of photographing the architecture of Islamic Cairo. The photographer has forced the three-dimensional forms of a parapet and base of a minaret into a completely flat plane with no real sense of volume, echoing the flatness of the pattern of the polychrome masonry. He uses qualities unique to photography to present an image which is remarkable for its time both technically and aesthetically - bold, abstract and thoroughly modern.