Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey
Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey was born into a privileged, aristocratic family in 1804 in Langres (Haute-Marne). He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in 1826 and two years later a Bachelor of Law. As a young man, he also took drawing classes in both Langres and Paris.
During the early 1830’s, he travelled frequently to Spain, Italy and North Africa, to draw and to paint.
As with many of his contemporaries, Girault de Prangey was fascinated by such romantic subjects as the East and lost civilisations, showing particular interest in Islamic architecture.
In 1832, he embarked on an expedition to Andalucía, a hub of Arabian culture from the 8 th to the 15 th centuries. His voyage culminated in the publication of a collection of engravings between 1836 and 1839 in three volumes entitled Monuments Arabes et Moresques [sic] de Cordoue, Séville et Grenade, dessinés et mesurés en 1832 et 1833 (Veith and Hauser, Paris). Girault de Prangey also published a scientific volume, the Essai sur l’architecture des Arabes et des Maures en Espagne, en Sicile et en Barbarie in Paris in 1841.
Daguerre’s revolutionary invention in 1839 was a turning point for the erudite Girault de Prangey – he was inspired by the exceptionally precise details enhanced by the daguerreotype photographic process. He was an immediate, enlightened fan and from the early 1840’s he produced several views of Langres, Paris and Marseilles.
Between 1842 and 1844 he travelled extensively in Chateaubriand’s footsteps around the Mediterranean, to photograph Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. This artistic and scientific adventure set the scene for a thousand daguerreotypes. The plates went on to be used as models for lithographs of his works on Islamic art: Monuments arabes (1846) and Monuments et Paysages de l’Orient (1851).
It was most likely at this time that Girault de Prangey produced the Swiss plates which the Gruyère Museum rediscovered in 2002. From 1850 onwards he rarely left his home in Courcelles-Val-d’Esnoms (Haute-Marne), devoting his time to botany and photography. He died in 1892 leaving no descendants.
Daguerreotypes by Girault de Prangey