Title and summary note are provided by Shabnam Rahimi-Golkhandan, FSg curatorial research specialist.
Antoin Sevruguin is one of the early pioneers of commercial photography in Iran. He arrived in Iran from Tbilisi, Georgia in the mid 1870s to set up shop in Ala al-Dawla street in Tehran. From the early days, Sevruguin's studio was trusted both by the Qajar court and by foreign visitors to Iran. Highly regarded for their artistic ingenuity outside Iran, Sevruguin's photographs of 'ethnic types,' architecture and landscape, and depictions of daily life of Tehran found their way into foreign travelogues, magazines and books. As such, he stands alone in a relatively large group of early Iranian photographers for being recognized and celebrated outside the boundaries of the country. Antoin Sevruguin passed away in 1933, leaving behind only a fraction of his large collection of glass negatives, which is currently in the Archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
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. Mrs. 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.
- 696 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.
According to Myron B. Smith handwritten document (Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information; Box 60; Folder 44: 47 P Antoine Sevruguin, glass negatives, Iran), Antoin Sevruguin's 696 glass negatives, at the time of their acquisition, were arranged into 61 boxes without any apparent organization. Today they are housed in archival document boxes, essentially duplicating the original arrangement, and stored on shelves. This glass negative was included into "Box 52."
"The street front and the shops' windows looks similar to a photo of Sevruguin's own studio, which substantiates the claim that this is Ala al-Dawla street. Note that in 1313/1923, the name of the street was changed to Firdawsi to commemorate both the poet and the ceremonies of his Millennia." [Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Curatorial Research Assistant]
- Handwritten information on slip of paper (from a 1943-1944 cash book, produced by the Bathni Brothers, Tehran) reads, "506) Khiabani Ala' i Dowleh." [Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information]
- Myron Bement Smith handwritten caption in English reads, "47.P; Box 52.6: Teheran. Khiabani Ala-i Dowleh (506)." [Myron Bement Smith Collection, Subseries 2.1: Islamic Archives History, Collection Information; Box 60; Folder 44: 47 P: Antoine Sevruguin, glass negatives, Iran]
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
Shelf 7: Box 52
Smithsonian Institution, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, 1050 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20013-7012