|An albumen print showing Dervishes in Egypt.
The Mevlevi are a Sufi order founded in 1273 by the followers of Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi after his death. The centre of the order was at Konya in present day Turkey, where Rumi is buried. They are commonly known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of Allah). During the Ottoman period, the Mevlevi spread into in the Balkans, Syria and Egypt.
In 1923 the Mevlevi were outlawed in Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, at the beginning of the secular revolution. During the 1950’s, the Turkish government, realizing that they had a value as a tourist attraction, began allowing the Whirling Dervishes to perform annually at Konya on the anniversary of Rumi’s death (17 December).
Photographed by Henri or Émile Béchard.
‘Among the most sensitive and well-composed of the photographs taken in the Middle East are those of Béchard. Much of the Béchard work is characterised by figures carefully arranged in a painterly fashion and thoughtfully composed landscapes and architectural studies. Though not excessively rare, they are far scarcer than the views of the large publishers such as Beato, Sébah, Bonfils, Arnoux and Zangaki who carried on working throughout the 1880s and 1890s. Unlike many other firms, the Béchard output is restricted almost exclusively to Egypt.
‘Unfortunately, the story of Maison Béchard and the output which may be attributed to them is one of confusion. Historians of the last 20 years have identified two figures in the story, Henri Béchard and Émile Béchard, who, it has been suggested, may have been brothers. Various bodies of work signed by Béchard have been ascribed to the hand of one or the other of the two in an inconsistent manner. ‘
The above two paragraphs are taken from Ken Jacobson’s much longer article on the Béchards in his recently published Odalisques and Arabesques: Orientalist Photography 1839-1925 (Quaritch, 2007).
The print measures 10.6” by 8.3” (270 mm by 210 mm).
The photograph dates from the 1870’s.
condition: The print, which has been skimmed from an album page, would be in excellent condition, if it weren’t for a long
U-shaped tear in its upper edge which has been archivally repaired.
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