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ARCHITECTURE - Ruins
"...voisins de l'antiquité, s'élevant sur ses débris, ces édifices ont conservé sans doute quelques traces, plus ou moins effacées de son génie et de ses traditions"
Girault de Prangey Essai sur l'Architecture des Arabes et des Mores en Espagne, en Sicile et en Barbarie, Paris A. Hauser 1841, page 67.
Girault de Prangey was the first artist since the invention of photography to embark on a photographic journey of such magnitude. His personal vocation as an historian of Islamic architecture provided the initial drive, but he was soon to find himself documenting the evidence of earlier civilizations. Many of these historical sites were already known widely to European viewers from paintings, drawings and prints, but had never been photographed before. No-one else had ever compiled such a collection of undeniable visual evidence showing what remained from past cultures.
The political and environmental ravages of intervening years had inevitably destroyed much, and it was rare for Girault de Prangey to find complete buildings intact. Even the smaller structures such as the Tower of the Winds and the Choragic Monument in Athens, although relatively unscathed, were still only partially excavated in the early 1840s. Many of the same monuments today are seemingly more complete due to the extensive renovations and reconstructions that have occurred since the second half of the nineteenth century. The photographer picked his way through the remains to focus on what survived: the fragment which could now only hint at the scale and complexity of the whole, but which still provides us today with a direct link back to early cultures from which we have absorbed so much.