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THE EARLIEST SURVIVING PHOTOGRAPHS FROM SYRIA
The subject that most concerned Girault de Prangey in Syria when he was there in 1844, was undoubtedly the maginificent Roman ruins at Baalbek. Here he appears to have made more photographs than at any other single location. However, he also allowed time to visit other important Syrian sites including Aleppo, Atlit, Damascus, Tripoli and Souk.
It was Vernet, Goupil-Fesquet and Joly de Lotbinière who preceded Girault de Prangey to Syria in January 1840. It is recorded that Goupil-Fesquet made the first daguerreotype view of Damascus on 19 January at 3.20pm. In February 1840 Joly de Lotbinière made the earliest view of which we still have a visual record, as it was later reproduced in Excursions Daguerriennes. Girault de Prangey's photographs are, once again, the earliest to have survived from Syria.
Damascus, celebrated as the "Paradise" or "Pearl" of the Orient, and competing with Aleppo for the credit of the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, has architectural and historical remains influenced by periods of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab and Ottoman rule. In the period immediately preceding the artist's visit, between 1831 and 1840, Syria came under Egyptian control and Europeans were more easily able to visit the city.