Mohamed ben Miloud
Two albumen prints, ethnographic studies by Philippe Jacques Potteau
ca. 1863, each approx. 6.5 x 5 inches (16x12 cm). On period mounts inscribed on the reverse "Mohamed ben Miloud / Tribu des Cherchene / divisi[?]n d'oran Algérie (Turco) / phot. en 1863." Price: $2,500. ( Inventory# gd93 )
Following on the amazing daguerreotypes taken in the 1840s by E.Thiesson, Potteau's ethnographic studies for the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle represent a significant moment in ethnographic portraiture. With empty backdrops and relying on a standardized frontal-profile pose, they were intended as scientific documentation of such things as skull shape and size. Potteau's studies are both expressions of the clear eye of science and precursors of the aggressively empty environments used by the 20th century photographer Irving Penn. By creating an alien environment and reducing "artistic" interventions to a null both photographers attain maximum intensity in the individual character expressed by their sitters. That Potteau's talent responded the vivid personal element in his subjects no less than to his scientific task, is clear in this portrait of Mohamed ben Miloud, representative of an Algerian racial type, proud soldier in the colonial forces of Napoleon III, and manifest human being.
Last updated January 17, 2018
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