Pompeii, Italy

Peristyle of the House of the Golden (or Gilded) Cupids, Pompeii, Italy, March 28, 1921, by Auguste Léon, via Archives of the Planet Collection – Albert Kahn Museum /Département des Hauts-de-Seine.

There are recent photos of the garden here and here and here. It has been restored to what is believed to be its Roman appearance, based on archaeological research, including taking root castings.

This autochrome is one of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker and pacifist, between 1909 and 1931. Kahn sent thirteen photographers and filmmakers to fifty countries “to fix, once and for all, aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is no longer ‘a matter of time.'”* The resulting collection is called Archives de la Planète and now resides in its own museum at Kahn’s old suburban estate at Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris. Since June 2016, the archive has also been available for viewing online here.


*words of Albert Kahn, 1912. Also, the above photo (A 25 797 S) is © Collection Archives de la Planète – Musée Albert-Kahn and used under its terms, here.

Normandy courtyard


The courtyard of Le Normandy Hotel, Deauville, France, August 8, 1920, an autochrome by Georges Chevalier, via Archives of the Planet Collection – Albert Kahn Museum /Département des Hauts-de-Seine.

Such pretty little green chairs; here’s another photo. . .

Inside the Cour Normande, ca. 1925, a postcard by Levy et Neurdein Reunis, via pellethepoet on flickr, under CC license.

The 5-star hotel was built in an Anglo-Norman style in 1912.  It appeared in the 1996 “The Murder on the Links” episode of Agatha Christies’ Poirot with David Suchet. Today, the courtyard looks much the same as it did in the 1920s, although the chairs and tables have been replaced with more little trees.

The image at the top is one of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker and pacifist, between 1909 and 1931. Kahn sent thirteen photographers and filmmakers to fifty countries “to fix, once and for all, aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is no longer ‘a matter of time.'”* The resulting collection is called Archives de la Planète and now resides in its own museum at Kahn’s old suburban estate at Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris. Since June 2016, the archive has also been available for viewing online here.


*words of Albert Kahn, 1912. Also, the photo at the top (A 23 019) is © Collection Archives de la Planète – Musée Albert-Kahn and used under its terms, here.

Life in gardens: travelers

Alahambra, Spain, 1878, Swedish Natl Heritage BoardThe Alhambra, Granada, Spain, 1878, by Carl Curman, via Swedish National Heritage Board Commons on flickr.

The cyanotype shows the photographer’s wife, Calla, either sketching or reading during a visit to the Court of the Lions.  She was 28 at the time and just married to Curman. This may have been their honeymoon trip.

The Alhambra fortress/palace was built primarily in the 13th and 14th centuries by the Muslim Nasrid dynasty of southern Spain. After the Christian Conquest in 1492, it became the royal residence of Ferdinand and Isabella and, later, their grandson, Charles V. However, by the 18th century the site was derelict and largely abandoned.

In 1829, the American writer Washington Irving stayed in the Alhambra for three months and then turned his impressions into the romantic Tales of the Alhambra.

“The peculiar charm of this old dreamy palace,” he wrote, “is its power of calling up vague reveries and picturings of the past, and thus clothing naked realities with the illusions of the memory and the imagination.”

The book was popular, “the exotic was in vogue,” and cultured travelers — Calla was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist — began to visit the ruins in increasing numbers. Restoration work — often controversial — soon followed.  Today, the old complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

About 30 years after Carl and Calla’s trip, their son also visited the Court of the Lions and took the picture below.Alhambra, 1910, Tekniska museetGroup of tourists in the Court of the Lions,  ca. 1910, by Sigurd Curman, via Tekniska museet (Stockholm) Commons on flickr.

In the 14th century, the area around the fountain was a little lower than the walkways and planted in flowers, giving a tapestry or carpet effect.  Today, as in the photo above, the space is entirely covered in dry pebbles to preserve the building’s foundation.

I am the garden appearing every morning with adorned beauty; contemplate my beauty and you will be penetrated with understanding.

— Ibn Zamrak, from a poem on the wall of the Hall of the Two Sisters in the Alhambra.

Life in gardens: boy and book

Boy reading a book, 1920, Library of Congress“Unidentified boy, seated on park bench, probably in Washington, D.C., holding book,” ca. 1920, by National Photo Company, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

I wonder if this isn’t a courtyard or garden corner of a college or university, rather than a park. Behind the boy are two adult coats, as well as books and files and at least one briefcase. Maybe he’s the son of a professor?

I love his wonderful sweaters and tweed shorts.