Athènes. 1842. Temple de Jupiter Olympien. Pris de l'Est.
'113. Athènes. 1842. Temple de Jupiter Olympien. Pris de l'Est.’ is a photograph made by Joseph Philibert Girault de Prangey in 1842. A print that sold in 2003 is currently the tenth most expensive photograph sold at auction.
The photographer Joseph Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804-1892) was a French photographer and draughtsman, whose work focused on architecture in the Middle East. Described as “a naturally gifted artist”, he made use of the daguerreotype to document “traces of classical Greek and Roman culture from architectural relics and historical locations”, and was “one of the earliest masters of the medium.”
He travelled extensively through large areas of the Middle East and “captured, what are often viewed as static subjects, as lively scenes.” Phillipe Garner, Christie’s International Head of Photographs, described Girault de Prangey as follows:
“De Prangey recognized how Daguerre’s invention could very effectively serve his own program of the scientific analysis and documentation of architecture … Though more than half a century were to pass before the daguerreotype plates that he brought back from this epic journey were to become sufficiently known, they established him as a seminal pioneering figure within the history of photography.”
The photograph, taken in 1842, depicts the ruins of the Temple of Jupiter in Athens. It is believed to be the oldest existing picture of the ruins in existence. It has been described as “iconic”; it has also been commented that “it is easy to understand the appeal and the price”.
On 20th May 2003, a print of ‘113. Athènes. 1842. T.[emple] de J.[upiter] Olympien. Pris de l'Est.’ sold for $922,488 at Christie’s, London. The print was a daguerreotype, silver on copper plate and measuring 18.9 by 24 cm. UK newspaper The Guardian reported that its sale set a new world record for the most expensive photograph sold at auction.
It was purchased by Sheikh Saud Al Thani, the cousin of the Emir of Qatar, who was described in 2004 as “the world’s most active collector of art and the market’s biggest spender.”