Letter by Auguste MarietteLetter by Auguste Mariette
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A Photograph with a story: Auguste Mariette 18622018-06-23T12:30:31+00:00

A Photograph with a story: Auguste Mariette 1862

Auguste Mariette

In 1862, Auguste Mariette had his photograph taken, especially for his sister Sophie.

On the photo itself is written:

Lower left corner: Mariette-Bey in 1862

Stamp on photo: Presented to the Société de Géographie by A. Rhoné, 1883

Handwritten text by Mariette, lower right corner: To my sister Sophie  as a testimony. Auguste.

A letter, accompanying the photograph says the following:

Portrait of Auguste Edouard Mariette, founder of the Egyptian museum of Boulaq, in Cairo.

This photograph of Mariette, dedicated to his sister Sophie Mariette, dates from June 1862. He was therefore at the time just over 41 years old. He had been an Egyptian civil servant for three and a half years, having joined the service, as director of excavations, in the Autumn of 1858.

Mariette was then at the peak of his strength , of  his happiness and of the high favour bestowed on him by the vice-roy Said-Pacha who demanded that all his civil servants wear the oriental costume.

The previous year, Mariette had  unofficially played the role of private diplomatic agent between Said-Pacha and Napoleon III, by negotiating and arranging the trip of the vice-roy to Paris. This appears clearly in  his correspondence which contains two slightly different drafts of a letter addressed to the emperor of the French and which Said-Pacha recopied  in his own hand.

In 1862, the Boulaq Museum was not completed yet. It did not open officially until 1864, after the death of Said-Pacha and the accession of Ismail-Pacha, who put an end to the wearing of the oriental costume and who started by  leaving Mariette in disgrace.

The friendship of Emmanuel de Rouge who was sent on a mission in 1863, and who entrusted Mariette with a scientific mission on behalf of the emperor, regarding the history of Caesar, – was sufficient to place Mariette back in the good grace of the sovereign and to save the museum of Boulaq, of which the construction had only just started.

Mariette, who was the noblest and the most unselfish of all men, had made the mistake of keeping in the background on account of his grief for Said’s death , instead of rushing towards the new sovereign.

However, the latter has since then developed the most constant attachment for Mariette. A few days before his demise, on May 5th, 1879, Ismail granted Mariette the rank of pasha.  This extremely beautiful portrait is therefore precious because it portrays Mariette at the peak of his activity, of his success, of his happiness, and of  his health.

We know, however, that as soon as 1860, his health had received several slight blows which did not worry him but which did not stop amplifying. They eventually caused his death on January 18th, 1881. He was born on February 11th, 1821.

In April 1879, while I was staying  with  Mariette at Boulaq, I found by chance the only original of this portrait in a box of cast-off photographs. It was folded, stained and forgotten. It would have been lost had  I  not obtained permission from Mariette to take it to Paris in order to have it reproduced and rescued.

His sister, Miss Sophie Mariette, asked me for the original. I am presenting this copy to the Société de Géographie on the condition that it will not be lent nor reproduced because I intend to publish it in the near future.

May 18th, 1883. Arthur Rhoné.

Source: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, from the archives of the Société de Géographie

Translation from French to English: Sylvie Weens.