The Great Sphinx of Giza (photo by Maxime Du Camp)  

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"We stop in front of the Sphinx, it fixes its ghastly gaze on us; Maxime turns as white as a sheet, I am afraid that dizziness may overtake me, and try to regain possession of my faculties."--Flaubert[1]

The Great Sphinx of Giza by Maxime Du Camp, 1849, taken when he traveled in Egypt with Gustave Flaubert.
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The Great Sphinx of Giza by Maxime Du Camp, 1849, taken when he traveled in Egypt with Gustave Flaubert.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Great Sphinx of Giza (1849) is the informal title of a photo by Maxime Du Camp, taken of the Great Sphinx of Giza when he traveled in Egypt with Gustave Flaubert.

The photo, taken on December 9, 1849, shows the Sphinx's head and shoulders look out from the hole dug by Karl Richard Lepsius.

In his journal, Flaubert wrote of the Sphinx, “No drawings that I have seen convey a proper idea of it -- best is an excellent photograph that Max has taken.” Meanwhile, Du Camp wrote, “I am pale, my legs trembling. I cannot remember ever being moved so deeply.”spurious citation?

It is one of the first known photographs of the Sphinx, taken only four years after the Giza plateau was mapped by Lepsius and his German expedition, and fifty years after the Sphinx was sketched by Vivant Denon in the French campaign in Egypt and Syria.

It is one of Du Camp's two photographs of the Sphinx and the benefits of the recent sand-clearances are still to be seen. In the background is the pyramid of Menkaure. Khafre's pyramid is out of frame to the right.

The photo was published in 1852 in one of the earliest books to be illustrated with real photographic prints made from negatives - Egypte, Nubie, Palestine, Syrie - in this case 125 calotype paper negatives.

Flaubert writes on first seeing the Sphinx

Flaubert writes on first seeing the Sphinx, from Notes de voyages[2]:

"The sight of the Sphinx Abu el-Hol (the Father of Terror). The sand, the pyramids, the Sphinx, all of it grey, basking in a grand pink hue; the skies are bright blue, the eagles wheel slowly around the tops of the pyramids. We stop in front of the Sphinx, it fixes its ghastly gaze on us; Maxime turns as white as a sheet, I am afraid that dizziness may overtake me, and try to regain possession of my faculties. To gaze at it calmly, we sit on the sand and light our pipes. Its eyes still seem full of life, the left side is stained white by birddroppings (the tip of the Pyramid of Chephren has the same long white stains), it exactly faces the east, its head is grey, ears very large and protruding like a negro's, its neck is eroded and thinner; from the front it rises even higher before you, thanks to a great hollow dug in the sand before its chest; its missing nose increases the flat, negroid effect. In any case it was certainly Ethiopian, judging by the thick lips." --Flaubert, tr. unidentified via [3]

Original French:

Vue du sphinx Abou-el-Houl (le père de la terreur). — Le sable, les Pyramides, le Sphinx, tout gris et noyé dans un grand ton rose ; le ciel est tout bleu, les aigles tournent en planant lentement autour du faîte des Pyramides. Nous nous arrêtons devant le Sphinx, il nous regarde d’une façon terrifiante ; Maxime est tout pâle, j’ai peur que la tête ne me tourne et je tache de dominer mon émotion. [4]
Sphinx. — Nous fumons une pipe par terre sur le sable en le considérant. Ses yeux semblent encore pleins de vie, le côté gauche est blanchi par les fientes d’oiseaux (la calotte de la Pyramide de Céphren en a ainsi de grandes taches longues), il est juste tourné vers le soleil levant, sa tête est grise, oreilles fort grandes et écartées comme un nègre, son cou est usé et rétréci ; devant sa poitrine, un grand trou dans le sable, qui le dégage ; le nez absent ajoute à la ressemblance en le faisant camard. Au reste il était certainement éthiopien ; les lèvres sont épaisses. [5]

See also




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