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Catalog Data

Smith, Myron Bement 1897-1970  Search this
Smith, Myron Bement 1897-1970  Search this
Sevruguin, Antoin -1933  Search this
Uniform title:
Early Photography of Iran  Search this
Smith, Myron Bement 1897-1970  Search this
Sevruguin, Antoin -1933  Search this
Muzaffar al-Dīn Shāh 1853-1907 Shah of Iran  Search this
Nāsir al-Dīn Shāh Shah of Iran 1831-1896  Search this
Reza Shah Pahlavi Shah of Iran 1878-1944  Search this
Islamic Archives  Search this
Physical description:
Photographic prints : 66 items; various dimensions
Glass Negatives : 695 items; b&w ; 13 cm. x 18 cm
Photographic prints : 98 items; various dimensions
Photographic prints
Glass negatives
Gelatin silver prints
Baghdad (Iraq)
Basṭām (Iran)
Bīshāpūr (Extinct city)
Dāmghān (Iran)
Delhi (India)
Fīrūzābād (Iran)
Hamadān (Iran)
Iṣfahān (Iran)
Naqsh-i Rustam (Iran)
Pasargadae (Extinct city)
Persepolis (Iran)
Tāq-e Bostān Site (Iran)
Tehran (Iran)
Titles and summary notes are provided by Shabnam Rahimi-Golkhandan, FSg curatorial research specialist.
Microfiche available at the Freer Gallery of Art Library.
Antoin Sevruguin managed and operated one of the most successful commercial photography studios in Tehran in the late 19th century. Born in the 1840s in Iran, Sevruguin's mother returned with her children to her hometown of Tbilisi after his father Vassil, a Russian diplomat in Iran, died in a horse riding accident. Trained as a painter, Sevruguin returned to Iran in the early 1870s accompanied by his two brothers, establishing a photography studio first in Tabriz and then Tehran. His studio's ties to Tbilisi, however, persisted through the years; many of the early portraits of Dervishes and women have been simultaneously attributed to Antoin Sevruguin and Dimitri Yermakov, the Georgian photographer who is often referred to as Sevruguin's mentor from Tbilisi. Many of Antoin Sevruguin's photographs were published as early as 1885 in travelogues, journals and books indicating that by that time he had a fully established practice in Tehran's Ala al-Dawla street, with ties to the court of Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar. Often unacknowledged as the producer of published images in his own time - the 1902 photographic survey of Persepolis being the most glaring of such authorial misrepresentations - he was nevertheless celebrated and acknowledged for his artistic vision and his keen eye for composition, achieving the Medal of Lion and Sun from Nasir al-Din Shah, the 1897 Medal of Honour in the Brussels International Exposition, and the 1900 Medal of Honour in Paris International Exposition. Reflecting a career that spans nearly half a century, Sevruguin's diverse body of work includes studio portraits of families, women and dervishes, survey photographs of archeological sites, objects, landscapes and architecture, and photographs of royalty, high officials and ceremonies of the Qajar court. The range of his output not only demonstrates his own pictorial concerns and artistic abilities but also the divergent interests of his clients. Despite numerous devastating incidents throughout his career - the loss of more than half of his negatives in a 1908 blast and fire, an unsuccessful attempt at diversifying into cinematography in the 1910s, and the confiscation of the remainder of his negatives in the mid-1920s to name a few - his studio remained operational even after his death in 1933. A number of negatives from the Sevruguin studio can be dated to the years after Antoin's death, indicating that the Sevruguin studio continued to be commercially viable. As one of the most prolific early commercial photographers in Iran, Antoin Sevruguin's artistic legacy has since proved far more enduring.
Finding aid to the Myron Bement Smith collection, processed by Dr. Elisabeth Graves, 2011, is available in the Archives Department and on Internet
Antoin Sevruguin photographs in the Myron Bement Smith collection are part of the "Islamic Archives," a collection assembled in part by the Committee for Islamic Culture under the direction of architectural historian Myron Bement Smith (1897-1970). The widow of Myron Bement Smith, Katharine Dennis Smith, donated her husband's papers to the Smithsonian Institution in 1972. The collection was housed in the National Museum of Natural History. Ms. Smith granted partial rights of the materials to the Institution in 1973 and full rights, interests, and title in 1985. The collection was transferred to the Freer Gallery in 1977.
- 66 gelatin silver prints are arranged in sequential number following Joseph Upton's handwritten list of captions, and ultimately organized by Myron B. Smith into subject categories (royalty, people, executions, criminals, punishment, architecture)
- 695 glass negatives, numbered, without any apparent organization, are housed in document boxes and stored on shelves
- 98 gelatin silver prints are organized by Myron B. Smith into subject categories (people, architecture, royalty, landscape)
- 66 black-and-white gelatin silver photoprints, unmounted, were a gift from Joseph Upton, received by the committee for Islamic Culture, as reported in their official minutes of October 24, 1953. The 66 photoprints were initially purchased by Joseph Upton in 1928 from Antoin Sevruguin in Tehran.
- 695 glass negatives were included into the "Islamic Archives," which was administered jontly by the committee for Islamic Culture and the committee for Arabic and Islamic Studies of the American Council of Learned Societies. According to the official minutes, the committee for Islamic Culture reported purchasing the 696 glass plates during their fiscal years 1951-1952 from the American Presbyterian Mission in Tehran. Antoin Sevruguin's daughter gave these plates to the mission with instruction that they be sold for the benefit of the mission.
- 98 gelatin silver photoprints were collected by Myron Bement Smith after he viewed a portion of Sevruguin's negatives in 1934 ( these include recent finds in the Myron Bement Smith collection).
In addition of Antoin Sevruguin's 695 glass negatives and 164 silver gelatin prints in the Myron Bement Smith collection the Archives holds: 18 albumen prints in theJay Bisno Collection of Sevruguin Photographs (FSA A.15); 34 photographic prints in the Ernst Herzfeld Papers (FSA A.6); as well as a photograph album and individual albumen prints donated by Stephen Arpee (FSA A2011.03). Finally, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives also own 3 separate gelatin silver prints.
Cite as:
Myron Bement Smith Collection: Antoin Sevruguin Photographs. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Gift of Katherine Dennis Smith, 1973-1985
Repository Loc.:
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20560
Abbasids  Search this
Ancient Near Eastern Art  Search this
Antiquities  Search this
Architecture  Search this
Art of the Islamic World  Search this
Clothing and dress  Search this
Criminal procedure  Search this
Executions and executioners  Search this
Headgear  Search this
Inscriptions  Search this
Landscapes  Search this
Portrait photography  Search this
Pottery  Search this
Relief (Sculpture)  Search this
Religious buildings  Search this
Royalty (Nobility)  Search this
Sassanids  Search this
Shrines  Search this
Textile design  Search this
Local number:
FSA A.04 2.12
Restrictions & Rights:
Access is by appointment only, Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please contact the Archives to make an appointment:
Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository
See more items in:
Myron Bement Smith collection 1899-1962
Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.12: Antoin Sevruguin Photographs
Data Source:
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives