Key PagesBrown's Egypt: Photographs from a 1923 Tour |
Lyons, Claire L., et al. Antiquity & Photography: Early Views of Ancient Mediterranean Sites. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005.
This book showcases some of the earliest photography of famous ancient ruins in the Mediterranean, especially Egypt, Greece, and Italy. Beginning in the 1840s, photographers such as Maxime Du Camp and Francis Frith began to publish images of the fabled ancient ruins to a fascinated public. According to Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, the accessibility of Egypt to western travelers was almost ubiquitous by the late nineteenth century, as well as the “predictable itinerary” for these visitors. “To have seen certain sites and monuments became virtually obligatory. From Egypt, for example, we find numerous (and often almost identical) views and narrative accounts of the Sphinx, the pyramids, the colossal statues at Abu Simbel and Thebes, and the temples at Philae and Karnak.” (11)
Given the proliferation of photographic images by the 1920s, as well as John Nicholas Brown’s personal interest in classical civilization and archaeology, it is not surprising that his travel album includes these very sites. They are also indicative of John Nicholas Brown’s anticipation of these locations based on their mass reproduction. By the time John Nicholas Brown visited Egypt in 1923, a long tradition of intellectual reverence for the ancient sites as well as popular awe was entrenched in western culture.
Trease, Geoffrey. The Grand Tour. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.
John Nicholas Brown’s 1922-23 voyage is in the tradition of the “Grand Tour,” the noted convention among elite men of the seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries to travel through Western Europe and Italy in their youth. Several other men in the Brown family are known to have taken a comparable voyage. Even if John Nicholas Brown did not conceive of this tour as a “Grand Tour,” it is still likely that the convention of the Grand Tour influenced his itinerary for the trip as a whole (Egypt was only one leg of JNB's extensive tour that lasted over a year). As a well-known cultural paradigm by the early twentieth century, the Grand Tour was the standard of the well-traveled in European and American intellectual culture. In 1967 historian Geoffrey Trease argued that although mass transportation and the steam engine ended the classic “age of the grand tour” in the nineteenth century, its memory was pervasive for American elites traveling to Europe. “Through [the young American]," wrote Trease, "there is a sense in which the intrinsic tradition of the Grand Tour lives on, democratized and transformed on the surface, but in its impulses and aspirations much the same.” (4) John Nicholas Brown was a world traveler of the modern age-- although the cathedrals of Western Europe were of enormous interest to him, exciting discoveries and ancient monuments in Egypt lured his party down the Nile.
For another perspective tying the cultural legacy of the Grand Tour to American travel habits in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, see:
Dulles, Foster Rhea. Americans Abroad: Two Centuries of European Travel. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1964.
Yale University has an important collection of primary source materials relating to the Grand Tour in the James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. See:
Marciari, John. The Grand Tour: An Exhibition. New Haven: Yale University, 1998.
"Statue group with Hathor Cow," Saqqara Online, Universiteit Leiden
"The Celestial Cow Emerging from the Theban Hillside" University of Wales Swansea
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