|An albumen print measuring 8.3” by 5” (211 mm by 128 mm), mounted on a slightly larger section of a cut-down section of an album page which has been split from its reverse side. The separation has been done extremely neatly by a professional conservator.
Numbered, titled, signed and dated 1889 in the negative.
Tancrède Dumas (1830-1905) was an Italian of French origin. His parents were fervent Bonapartists who had emigrated to Milan and it was there that the young Tancrède began his working life as a banker. It seems that he learnt photography in Florence at the studio of the Alinari Brothers.
Towards the middle of the 1860’s he founded a studio in Constantinople, in association with some others. The existence of this studio is attested to by the survival of a few rare cartes-de-visite, the backplate of which mentions T.R.Dumas & Cie., photographes de vues et costumes, près du Jardin des Fleurs, Grande rude Pera 232. Dumas’ activity in Constantinople must have been of short duration, because by 1866 he was installed in a studio on the seafront in Beirut in the consulate quarter. His publicity reveals a variety of occupations – apart from photography, he was also agent for the Rostan bank, and even offered pianos to hire or to buy!
Apart from portraits, Dumas took several views of Beirut and Damascus towards the end of the 1860’s, which are also sometimes found signed by Félix Bonfils. In 1872 Dumas published a catalogue, printed in Milan, comprising 260 views of various countries between Upper Egypt and India, including Palestine, Baalbeck, Damascus, Greece and Mesopotamia. One of his advertisements announced Vente, achat et échange des plaques negatives de tous les pays so it would appear that even if Dumas himself, he acquired negatives from a photographer who had, a common practice at the time.
In another piece of publicity published in France in the bilingual review The Bee / An-Nahla and dated 14 July 1878, Dumas announced the sale by subscription of four albums of photographs of the most celebrated sites of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Palmyra, Anatolia, Greece and Constantinople. These albums, each of which contained 100 views, were to be of three different sizes. It is unclear if the larger of these was intended to be an album or a portfoliao, since an album in the largest size mentioned has yet to be found.
Dumas also accompanied the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg on his voyage to the Orient, earning the right to advertise as Photographer to the Imperial and Royal Court of Prussia.
On 9 August 1875 a mission of the American Palestine Exploration Society (A.P.E.S.) arrived in Beirut. A contract had already been signed with the photographer Henri Rombau to accompany an expedition of “at least thirty and no more than seventy-five days” but at the last moment Rombau declined and the contract fell to Dumas. The ninety-nine photographs that he took were published in a large album, accompanied by relevant commentaries.
At the same time that Dumas was operating as a photographer, he was also following a parallel career as a banker, From 1900 to 1904 Le Bottin mentions the establish T.R. Dumas et Fils, rue Lafitte, Paris under the heading Banquiers et Commissionnaires.
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