Jacques de Morgan and the Photograph of his First Scientific Mission in Persia (1889-1891)
Archeologist or Photographer
A collection of photographs made by the French archaeologist Jacques de Morgan during his first scientific mission in Persia was recently discovered in an antiquarian’s shop in Chartres by ‘Ata Ayati, an Iranian researcher residing in France. The originality and the cultural and scientific value of this collection were confirmed by several experts, following which, with the assistance of Dr. Ehsan Naraqi, Mrs. Homeira Ayazi (Sellier), a philanthropist residing in Europe, provided the sum needed for its acquisition. After the completion of the transaction, the photographs were inventoried and arranged as four albums before being sent to their land of origin. Today, these albums are preserved in the Album House of the Golestan Palace and may be used as an invaluable guide by scholars doing research on the history, society and people of Iran in the closing years of Nasser-ed-Din Shah’s reign. In the present article, ‘Ata Ayati briefly examines de Morgan’s life, the characteristics of the photographs, and their cultural and scientific aspects.
Jacques Jean Marie de Morgan was born on June 3, 1857 in an aristocratic family of Huisseau-sur-Cosson. He completed his primary and secondary education in his hometown. Youthful exuberance attracted him toward cockfights and collecting antiquities. He went on to Paris to continue his studies, graduating from the École des Mines in 1882. During his studies in this school, he manifested such aptitude in the domain of archaeology that, immediately after obtaining his mining diploma, he was sent on excavation missions in northern Europe. (It is notable that his elder brother, Henri de Morgan, had previously taken part in archaeological research in America.) After the publication of the results of De Morgan’s research, the French minister of public education sent him on two excavation missions to India and Malaysia. It was then that his later scientific interest in the orient took shape. Benefiting from his mining knowledge, de Morgan traveled, at his own expense, accompanied by his wife and daughter, to the Caucasus, where he spent two years excavating in view of amassing a substantial capital. During his stay, he was also able to carry out research in various other scientific fields, including ethnology. The publication of these research works prompted the French minister of public education to adjoin him to his ministry. Thanks to this position, and the support of two eminent figures of the time, the archaeologist Maspero and the anthropologist Dr.