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Stuart Cary Welch Islamic & South Asian Photograph Collection – Part 6

‘Missing’ Images for Catalogs and Finding Aids

Written by Alice West

This post is the sixth in a series about the Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection written by the project’s staff in the Digital Images and Slides Collections of the Fine Arts Library.


Previously, we talked about an important subset of Stuart Cary Welch’s photographs, images of Islamic and South Asian art in private collections. This time, we look at another interesting subset, the images that are currently available to the general public only as textual descriptions in catalogs or finding aids.

Libraries and museums maintain inventories of the objects they own. Some inventories are simple itemized lists, while others publish catalogs that provide descriptions of the objects. It takes an enormous effort to compile a catalog with descriptions, whether detailed or not. Compilation of library catalogs is a branch of art history in its own right, and some catalogers, such as Hermann Ethé, Lynda York Leach, or Basil W. Robinson, are known particularly for their cataloging accomplishments, in addition to their research. Catalogs of illustrated manuscripts are especially time and space consuming, as a manuscript may have dozens and even hundreds of images that need to be identified and described. As a rule, printed catalogs do not include images of all miniatures, as it would make the catalogs prohibitively large and expensive, especially for color printing.

Computer technologies brought a revolution in cataloging. They brought in virtually unlimited storage space, as well as powerful search capabilities. The first stage of this revolution was to convert existing paper catalogs into digital databases. However, due to the sheer scale of this task, many online catalogs are, in effect, scans of the old paper catalogs that have but a few images. Similar to catalogs, institutions compile finding aids that describe groups of objects in their collections, but provide little description of individual objects or images they contain.

This is where the Welch Photograph Collection can help. It may contain the ‘missing’ images from catalogs and finding aids, such as the miniatures from Layli u Majnun (Ouseley Add. 137, Bodleian Library) detailed in Robinson’s Descriptive Catalog [i] (pic. 1 and 2) and Persian, Turkish, Hindustani, and Pushtu Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library by Sachau and Ethé (No. 650). Many leaves of this manuscript are damaged or entirely destroyed, which may explain why, given the limited resources, this manuscript has not been digitized. Still, its miniatures are well-preserved, and the Welch Collection provides an opportunity to take a peek at them [ii].

Camel riders on the left, wearing Arabic-style turbans with hanging ends, are battling horsemen in golden helmets on the right. Majnun and villages are hiding behind the hills, watching the battle from a distance.

Pic. 1. Battle of the Clans. Layli u Majnun by Nizami Ganjavi, Bodleian Library, Ouseley Add. 137, ca. 1573-1574.

Majnun, wearing dark-blue loin cloth, skinny and barefoot, is talking to his friend at the side of a brook. The friends are standing facing each other. A blossoming tree is behind Majnun. Nearby and looking the same direction as him are a leopard and a lioness. A herd of wild goats play in the distant hills. The sky is solid gold with dark-blue bands of clouds.

Pic. 2. Majnun Visited by a Friend in the Desert. Layli u Majnun by Nizami Ganjavi, Bodleian Library, Ouseley Add. 137, ca. 1573-1574.

Dastur-i Himmat (ca. 1755-1760) is a lavishly illustrated West Bengali manuscript meticulously described in Linda York Leach’s Mughal and Other Indian Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library. According to the catalog, the Dastur-i Himmat retells in Persian verse the Hindu romance of Prince Kamrup of Avadh and Princess Kamalata of Serendip. The romance was very popular, but the Dastur-i Himmat was a minor version, not often produced. Leach’s large illustrated catalog contains 18 out of 231 images from the manuscript, both color and black-and-white. This is a relatively large number of reproductions for a printed catalog of this scale, but the Welch Collection has at least two illustrations that are ‘missing’ from the catalog: Kamalata and Kamrup with the magician Bidyachand disguised as a parrot on his head and a Battle Scene. Both of these Welch images are details rather than the full versions of the original images, though we are hopeful that their full versions, as well as other illustrations from this manuscript, will be discovered as we continue to catalog the collection.

Two richly attired ladies are kneeling on an open palanquin carried by four men in orange uniforms. A crowd of young men stands facing the ladies. All young men and the ladies are wearing long pearl necklaces studded by rubies and pearl earrings.

Pic. 3. Kamalata is carried out on a litter, while Kamrup stands in a row of her suitors with the parrot Bidyachand on his head. Dastur-i Himmat, Chester Beatty Library, Ms. 12, ca. 1755-1760.

The entire space of the image is filled with clashing horses and warriors waving raised swords and shields. There are dead bodies on the ground and a warrior in the center carries a severed head.

Pic. 4. Kamrup and his companions fight Raja Pirthipat’s enemies (?). Ibid.

With its vast number of Islamic manuscripts and albums, the British Library has one of the most extensive digitization programs in the world. The Library’s fabulous online Johnson Collection, however, is a finding aid that provides detailed textual descriptions of its objects, but not images. Occasional images can be found elsewhere, including, for example, in the British Library’s Asian and African Studies Blog, but you can also look for some of the ‘missing’ images in Welch Photograph Collection, where they are preserved in high resolution, color, and occasionally close-ups. One such image is Young Prince Embracing a Youth (pic. 5a). This miniature belongs to the Bukhara (modern Uzbekistan) school of painting that had significant influence on Mughal art. There are multiple variations on this theme, including one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (pic. 5b) and a 19th century image currently at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia (pic. 5c). While not as widely known, Welch’s image from the British Library’s Johnson Collection stands out for its bright colors and unique style among alternative tinted drawing versions.

Young prince’s leg is high around the youth’s waste and the arm around his neck. The youth has removed his turban and is clutching a bottle in his hand. The picture is richly decorated with illuminated corners and half-medallions.

Pic. 5a. Young prince embracing a youth. British Library, Johnson 56,12. Bukhara school, late 16th century

This image is very similar to the one above, but executed in monochrome with only a light wash. In addition to the wrapped around leg, the prince tries to grab on to his companion’s face, white the latter pushes his hand away.

Pic. 5b. Two youths romping. Iran (?), late 16th century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1978.18.

The composition here is the same as in the previous two images, with one youth wrapping his leg around the waste of the other, but the bottle of wine is missing. There are extra landscape features, including a tree and a brook at the boys’ feet. This image is a very light beige wash, except for the turbans, sashes, and collars painted in contrasting gold. Poetry lines form a frame around the image.

Pic. 5c: Two youths near a tree. Hermitage Museum, VP-955. Iran, 2nd half of the 19th century.

Another rarely seen miniature described in the Johnson Collection’s finding aid is Young Dervish with Spear and Book (pic. 6) by a renowned 16th century Khorasani artist Muhammadi, who, according to Abolala Soudavar, was “the uncontested master” who influenced the work of Farrukh Beg and Riza ‘Abbasi [iii]. This image was used in at least two later compositions, one of which, Young Noble and Dervish in Conversation from Aga Khan Museum of Toronto (pic. 7), has been reproduced in several printed museum’s catalogs, but not on the museum’s website. Digital versions of both images can be found in HOLLIS, Harvard’s portal to the Welch Collection.

A young man is facing left against a plain background. He is holding a double-edged spear in his left hand and a book in his right. Attributes of a dervish, including a chained bell, an alms bowl, a tin water jar, and a dagger, hang from his waste. The borders are illuminated with a floral pattern and arabesques.

Pic. 6. Muhammadi, Young dervish with spear and book. Iran, ca. 1575. British Library, Johnson 28,14

A young man dressed in fine robes and a large turban is perched on a low branch of a blossoming tree with an open book in his hands. A golden wine bottle is on the ground behind him. Opposite the nobleman is a young dervish with a shaven head, accessorized by a leopard skin, a tin water jug, a chained bell, a kashkul or a beggar’s bowl, a purse, and a knife. A brook runs in the foreground surrounded by field flowers and multi-colored rocks. The golden sky full of scrolling clouds takes up a third of the picture.

Pic. 7. Young noble and dervish in conversation. Iran, ca. 1590. Aga Khan Museum, AKM074

One of my favorite undigitized and understudied manuscripts is Shirin u Khusrau from Hamsa of Hatifi, nephew of the famous poet Jami (Codrington/Reade 244, Royal Asiatic Society). Fihrist Oxford-Cambridge catalog calls it “a manuscript of sumptuous quality,” and rightly so. This Khorasan style [iv] manuscript has only five miniatures and one tinted drawing [v], but its margins illuminated with waqwaq scrolls and human-inhabited cameos are delightful (pic. 8). Among the miniatures, one particularly stands out: it is a girl in a bright robe decorated with standing and sitting human figures (pic. 9).

The wide margins of this poetry page are covered with grotesque scrolls with the heads of animals, people, and demons against a gold background. The four scalloped medallions are proportionally spaced around the margins.

Pic. 8. Waqwaq scrolls with five medallions of youths and girls. Khorasan, ca. 1575. Royal Asiatic Society, Persian 244, f. 3a.

A slender young girl is wearing a long golden robe covered with images of seated and standing noblemen and a cap with long pointy ends hanging on both sides of her face. Her undergarments and skinny shalvars peaking from under her robe are decorated in geometric patterns. The girl is placed against a solid dark background against which her brightly patterned clothing stand out.

Pic. 9. Standing girl holding a spray of flowers. Khorasan, ca. 1575. Royal Asiatic Society, Persian 244, f. 94b.

The Welch Collection has nine out of the 25 miniatures in Jawami al-Hikayat by ‘Aufi (British Library, Or. 11676), for which the British Library catalog provides only textual descriptions. One is particularly lively, showing the Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi (8th century), who is unable to sleep, and his masseur working on caliph’s legs and simultaneously entertaining him by telling stories. Note the intently listening king, the masseur, who applies visible force to do a good massage, and a number of golden metal objects in the foreground, including a wash basin with a ewer and an incense burner to help the caliph relax.

The calif is stretched out on a bed, propped by a large pillow and covered by a blanked waist down. Layers of draperies hang down over the bed decorated in geometric and arabesque patterns. The calif is leaning on his elbow and looking sideways at the masseur, who is kneading the calif’s leg. To the right of the bedchamber, three courtiers are observing this procedure. There is a small fountain pool, a gold incense burner and a gold pitcher with water basin in front of the bed.

Pic. 10. The Calif al-Mahdi and his masseur. Khorasan, ca. 1575. Royal Asiatic Society, Persian 244, f. 94b.

Many images in the Welch Photograph Collection come without notations, so the Fine Art Library’s catalogers rely on manuscript descriptions in catalogs to identify the images. Problems arise when more than one description matches an image. For example, the miniature in pic. 11 from Jawami al-Hikayat matched two descriptions from the catalog [vi]: 1) f. 381a: The four travelers being tested by the Indian princess, and 2) f. 278a: Princes of Rum is talking to her tenth suitor. Luckily, a few lines of text that came with the image helped identify it as folio 278a. This serves as an example of the importance of text that comes with the image, which, unfortunately, is often cut off in reproductions.

In the center of the page, a young man is sitting on a large canopied throne. To his right, a princess, disguised as a maid, is addressing him. A group of young men in long robes and turbans are looking at the princess across a pool fountain. A blue-and-white Chinese vase, a gift for the princess, is in front of this group. The scene unfolds in a landscape filled with flowers and blossoming trees.

Pic. 11. Princes of Rum is talking to her tenth suitor. Iran, early 15th century. Jawami al-Hikayat, British Library, Or. 11676, f. 278a.

I would like to end this overview with a stunning miniature from the Keir Collection, currently at the Dallas Museum of Art, but not on the museum’s website. Its description, along with a color reproduction, appears in a rare printed catalog of the Keir Collection [vii]. The expanse of the gold sky that takes most of the painting makes this image especially beautiful. The unusual composition, as well as the ‘cut off’ figures in the lower left corner make researchers believe that it was cut out of a larger image [viii] or is part of a two-page frontispiece.

Two pairs of geese and magpies cross the solid gold sky that covers nearly three quarters of the picture. A horseman and his companions at the bottom left corner appear cut off at the edges and blend into a mountain of sharp rocks. Fantastic oversized flowers and bare trees punctuate the golden sky. The picture is framed by a quatrain of poetry at the bottom.

Pic. 12. Mongol cavalry in a landscape. Iran, 15th century. Dallas Museum of Art, III.077.

Supplementing catalogs and finding aids with color images was not Welch’s goal, so there is no systematic coverage even for major publications. If an image is missing from a particular catalog, there is no guarantee you will find it in the Welch Photograph Collection. Still, you may want to try searching HOLLIS or ask the librarian in charge of the collection, Nicolas Roth (

Images that have been described in catalogs, but have not been available visually until now, provide additional material to study and may even inspire new research. One thing we are sure about: the Welch Photograph Collection holds many pleasant surprises for its visitors, both academic and general, as the work on cataloging the collection continues.



[i] B.W. Robinson, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Persian Paintings in the Bodleian Library (Oxford: Clarendon, 1958), 1027-1035.

[ii] B.W. Robinson, Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Persian Miniature Paintings from British Collections, VAM (London: s.n., 1951), 80.

[iii] Abolala Soudavar, “The Age of Muhammadi,” Muqarnas 17, no. 1 (2000): 53-72.

[iv] B. W. Robinson, “Muhammadi and the Khurasan Style,” Iran 30 (1992): 17-29.

[v] B. W. Robinson, Persian Paintings in the Collection of the Royal Asiatic Society (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1998), 59-61.

[vi] Norah Titley, Miniatures from Persian manuscripts: catalog and subject index (London: British Museum, 1977).

[vii] B.W. Robinson, Ernst J. Grube, G. M. Meredith-Owens et al., Islamic Painting and the Arts of the Book. The Keir Collection (London: Faber, 1976).

[viii] B.W. Robinson, Persian Miniature Painting from the Collections in the British Isles (London: HMSO, 1976).



András Riedlmayer puts this war crime on the map

“… if you really want to make a librarian mad, burn down a library.”

András Riedlmayer, Bibliographer in Islamic Art and Architecture at Harvard’s Fine Arts Library, made this comment when asked why he undertook his project to collect, preserve and publicize evidence of the destruction of cultural heritage in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The story about his work in the Balkans is profiled in the Harvard Gazette.

Riedlmayer testified at the UN war crimes tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague in the trials of 14 Serbian and Bosnian Serb officials, as an expert on cultural destruction in the Balkans. Among the defendants was former Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević, accused of war crimes and genocide in Kosovo and Bosnia. Although Milošević died of a heart attack before the ICTY could deliver a verdict in his case, 11 of the others were convicted and sent to prison.

Read more about his ongoing efforts to preserve documentation on the cultural heritage of the Balkans and its fate in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, in the Harvard Gazette.


A young man squatting on the ground to pick up and look at torn and burned religious texts inside the village mosque, torched by Serbian soldiers in 1999. The man is photographed from the side, wearing a dark clothing. The ground is rabbled with pieces of concretes and debris. In the background, burned marks on the concrete wall is visible.

Carralevë, Kosovo. Agim Orllatë, a Kosovar Albanian university student who worked with Riedlmayer as an interpreter, looks at torn religious texts inside the village mosque, torched by Serbian soldiers in 1999. (Photo courtesy of András Riedlmayer)


Burned book of a Qur’an, opened to show its pages ripped from its binding and partially burned. The edges of book pages are burned.

Remains of a Qur’an, its pages ripped from its binding and partially burned, among the items collected by Riedlmayer in Oct. 1999 from the village mosque in Carralevë, Kosovo. (Photo: Naoe Suzuki)


Riedlmayer looking down on a selection of damaged book pages laid out on the table in the office. He is wearing gloves to handle fragile remains of the torn books.

Riedlmayer selecting damaged book pages to be sent for an exhibition on cultural heritage and war, held at the Imperial War Museum in London in 2019. (Photo: Naoe Suzuki)


A selection of the damaged pages of books and manuscripts laid on a table. There are two rows and four columns of stacked pages.

A selection of the damaged pages of books & manuscripts collected by Riedlmayer in Oct. 1999 from the village mosque in Carralevë, Kosovo. These damaged books were written in a number of languages: Arabic, Albanian, Ottoman Turkish, Bosnian, Serbian. (Photo: Naoe Suzuki)


A monthly church bulletin, written in Serbian, with partially burned marks. The cover of the bulletin includes a black and white image of religious painting. A couple of burned holes were made from the fire.

A partially burned monthly church bulletin from a Serbian Orthodox monastery chapel at Buzovik, Kosovo, targeted in a revenge attack by Kosovo Albanians after the end of the war. One of the items collected by Riedlmayer during his fieldwork in Kosovo in Oct. 1999. (Photo: Naoe Suzuki)


Close-up image of the cover of a damaged and desecrated book. The cover includes an ornate border, but the text is difficult to read due to the fire damage.

One of the damaged and desecrated books & manuscripts collected by Riedlmayer in Oct. 1999 from the village mosque in Carralevë, Kosovo. (Photo: Naoe Suzuki)

Announcement: Explore our Stuart Cary Welch Islamic & South Asian Photograph Collection!

You’re invited to share in a project with us here at the Harvard Fine Arts Library: a digital humanities game using images of Islamic and South Asian art, with the chance to win an art publication of your choice, worth up to $150 USD!

For more information about The Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection, see the collection page on our website. The collection consists mostly of high-definition photographs of paintings and drawings, both famous and rare, but it also contains images of historical photographs, metalwork, and architecture.

The game is easy! Just register, then click through the images and add tags, separated by commas. Keywords are fine, but the most important details would be any deeper knowledge you can impart (language, style, rough time period/era, story/text identification, motifs, techniques, artist, repository, etc.)

At the end of each round, the participants will be entered into a drawing to win an art book of their choice valued up to $150 USD. NOTE: you do need to register for an account and play the game at least once in order to be entered into the prize drawing!! 


Register HERE (you’ll need to confirm your email)

…then access the game HERE!


The theme for this month is: 

The Natural World: Indian & Islamic Paintings and Drawings



A little taste of themes to come (new rounds will be announced on our Instagram page, @harvardfineartslibrary, so give us a follow!):

The Supernatural World (paintings and drawings)

The Real World (historical and architectural photographs)

Challenge round (Difficult! Metalwork, frontispieces, etc.)


Thanks so much, and we hope you enjoy exploring this exciting collection! If you don’t mind, we’d love your feedback after playing, which you can give via the short form here: Have fun!

Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection – Pt. 3


This post is the third in a series about the Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection written by the project’s staff and student catalogers in the Digital Images and Slides Collections of the Fine Arts Library.
Written by Logan Heiman

The Stuart Cary Welch South Asian Photograph Collection is a collection of over 60,000 35mm slide images of Islamic and Indian art, which documents artworks from the most prominent civilizations in the Islamicate world spanning the deserts of Uzbekistan all the way through to the Himalayas and onward to the Indian subcontinent. The credit for this collection belongs to its namesake. Stuart Cary Welch made use of his far-flung connections and influence as a renowned curator and art historian to document previously difficult-to-access artworks produced over the course of a millennium. While the Welch collection encompasses artworks of various forms and media in addition to architectural works, painted manuscripts constitute the heart of its contents.

Under the Mughal emperors such as Akbar (reigned 1556–1605), Jahangir (reigned 1605–1627), and Shah Jahan (reigned 1605–1627), royal patronage of the arts produced a great number of paintings, poetry, and exquisite manuscripts chronicling the sumptuous wealth and splendor of the court with its attendant rituals and ceremonies. Such manuscripts displayed the cosmopolitanism and erudition of the emperors for whom they were commissioned. This was also a golden age for Mughal architecture, particularly under Shah Jahan, who commissioned several large monuments including Taj Mahal.[i]



This detached folio from the Jahangirnameh (Memoirs of Jahangir) in the Aga Khan Museum depicts Jahangir appearing before his subjects from a jharoka, or balcony during the darshan ceremony, evoking the royal style of Hindu kings. The darshan ceremony, initiated by Akbar during his reign, emphasized the illuminating power of the emperor through ritual performance.[ii]



Other images convey not only the trappings of imperial wealth in the Mughal court, but also the social arrangements and hierarchy by which the emperor distinguished himself from the nobles and the nobles from the largely Hindu subjects of the empire. Take the example of this painting at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, depicting the Emperor Jahangir in the midst of a darbar. A darbar served an array of purposes including formal discussions of affairs of state and royal ceremonies. Here, Jahangir is seen in an audience hall surrounded by his son Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan) and grandson Prince Shah Shuja, along with courtiers. The position of the courtiers flanking the emperor denotes their privileged status following the strict protocol governing such ceremonies.







Yet another defining feature of Mughal paintings is their striking realism. A painting from the Johnson Album housed in the British Library exemplifies the commitment of commissioned artists to extraordinary detail and naturalism. Jahangir championed this particular style, as reflected in this painting that depicts a hunter scaling a tree. The hunter, whose eyes are set on squirrels high up in the branches, is at the bottom of the tall tree with no shoes. His expression is determined and his right foot is already in climbing action. But, the squirrels above already know that he has no chance. They are going on with their usual business, ignoring the man below. The depictions of squirrels show that the artist spent quite a long time studying them, such that he could accurately capture their busy activities and movements during the autumn season.






The aforementioned images provide just a small glimpse of the artwork documented by Stuart Cary Welch during his long, path-breaking career. Works from the Mughal Empire have been showcased here, and future blog posts will cover the many other empires and societies in which these artworks were generated.


[i] Mughal Empire on Wikipedia: (retrieved on 11/27/17)

[ii] Jahangir at the jharoka window of the Agra Fort, folio from Jahangirnameh (Memoirs of Jahangir) from Aga Khan Museum’s website: (retrieved on 11/27/17)


There will be an exhibit of the Welch Collection images at the Fine Arts Library at Littauer Center from January 22, 2018.

Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection – Pt. 2

Written by Bronwen Gulkis

This post is the second in a series about the Stuart Cary Welch Islamic and South Asian Photograph Collection written by the project’s staff and student catalogers in the Digital Images and Slides Collections of the Fine Arts Library.

Slides on the light table

Before the widespread availability of high-quality digital images, patrons at the Fine Arts Library viewed images on 35mm film slides, strips of developed film housed in a lightweight metal, plastic, or paper frame. These could be viewed through a slide projector, or at a light table–the Fine Arts Library still has some of these tables in our Lamont location. The library also has over 607,000 slides left from these days, and most scholars and professionals would have kept their own image collections as well. However, this was not always the case. Stuart Cary Welch, the former curator of Indian and Later Islamic art at Harvard, owned a collection of approximately 65,000 slides, which he left to the Fine Arts Library. In a memorial essay for Martin Dickson, “Salute to a Coauthor,” Welch later recalled that when he began amassing his slides, a colleague of his “spurned their use as not quite honorable, akin to cheating at cards.”[1] However unorthodox his methods may have been at the time, they were eventually adopted across the field of Islamic and Indian art.

Like any analogue technology, the clarity and resolution of 35mm slides was dependent on the type of film used and the developing technique. Most of the Stuart Cary Welch collection was photographed on Kodachrome, a proprietary film and emulsion technique owned by Kodak and popular throughout the 20th century. Kodachrome was prized for its archival qualities, since the color dye was added to the film surface in layers during the developing process, allowing for greater clarity, nuance, and pigment stability. However, like all archival materials, slide images degrade over time. The Fine Arts Library staff and our team of photographers has been working to preserve these images by re-photographing the physical slide, and then editing this digital image to restore and their original color balance.

Slides also fostered a unique collaborative way of working. Welch recalled that Martin Dickson, a professor of Persian Studies at Princeton, “underwent trial by color slide” in 1960 upon first visiting the Welch residence to discuss the project that became The Houghton Shahnama.[2]  Veterans of the Fine Arts Library will recall a time when professors prepared for their lectures by sorting slides side by side on a light table and loading them into a carousel. Welch collected images from across America, Europe, the Middle East, and India, and then manually reconstructed manuscripts and artistic communities by grouping dispersed images in the same carousels. As we inventory Welch’s slides, we often come across these carousels, filled with images from his publications and lectures.

Today, it is so easy to access high-quality digital images that we forget the meticulous processes that earlier scholars went through to assemble their image collections. Now that 35mm slide technology is no longer in use, these slides become artifacts of a formative period in the discipline of art history. Our next post will cover some of the treasures of this exciting research collection.




[1] Welch, Stuart Cary. “Salute To A Coauthor: Martin Bernard Dickson”. In Intellectual Studies On Islam: Essays Written In Honor Of Martin B. Dickson, 9. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1990, 9.

[2] Welch 1990, 14.


Salted Paper Prints from Special Collections

Here you see the wide range in tonality and richness in colors. Indeed, monochrome can be very colorful. We are so glad that many of these salt prints have remained in good condition, such that the facial expressions and details of clothing and accessories for each sitter are still astonishingly clear.

In collaboration with the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and Houghton Library, Harvard Library’s Weissman Preservation Center (WPC) is hosting a symposium on the Salted Paper Prints from the Harvard Fine Arts Library’s historic photographs collection on September 14th and 15th. During the two-day symposium, a hands-on workshop hosted by the Northeast Document Conservation Center will allow participants to explore the chemistry and artistic nuance of creating salted paper prints. A brief lecture will acquaint the participants with the basic chemistry and variations of the process and discuss preservation concerns.

The salted paper print was an early negative/positive printing process developed by William Henry Fox Talbot in England in the 1830s. Many beautiful examples of this process were created in the 19th century and can be found in a variety of photograph collections.

Read more about the symposium and how to register.

Read the previous post about the Salted Paper Prints Symposium.

Salted Paper Prints Symposium

Salted paper print at the Fine Arts Library

Salted Paper Prints: Process and Purpose
A Collaborative Workshop in Photograph Conservation

In collaboration with the Foundation for the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic WorksHarvard Art Museums, and Houghton Library, Harvard Weissman Preservation Center (WPC) is hosting a symposium on salted paper prints on September 14th and 15th. Registered participants will be able to attend a special viewing of salted paper prints from the Harvard Fine Arts Library‘s historic photographs collection on September 13th.

A salted paper print, or simply salt print, is a photographic printing process whereby paper is coated with salt solution and then a silver nitrate solution to capture images. It was a popular photographic printing technique between 1839 and approximately 1860.[1]

WPC has undertaken a university-wide project, the Salt Print Initiative, to preserve and enhance access to salt prints across campus, including inventorying the salt prints held by individual repositories, including the Fine Arts Library.

This symposium will present a multi-disciplinary, two-day program that focuses on the preservation, characterization, use, and interpretation of the salt print process, now over 175 years old. Read more about the symposium and how to register.


Staff from Harvard Weissman Preservation Center selected some salted paper prints from our collection for the initial presentation at the Fine Arts Library in December, 2016.

Stay tuned for more images from the historic photographs collection.



Lucy in the Sky

Peter Malutzki.  Lucy in the sky.  Big Brother is Watching You...

Book artist Peter Malutzki became interested with “selfies” and especially the way young women posed themselves for display on the Internet.  He reused images found online to create a book about fantasy and self-representation, Lucy in the Sky; Big Brother is Watching You.  Superimposed are the words from the Beatles’ song, Lucy in the Sky, a text he found a fitting juxtaposition to the self-presentation of these pictures.

Malutzki has been making books, using a wide variety of found materials and printing techniques, for decades.  With his partner Ines von Ketelhodt, he undertook a 50-volume set created over 10 years and based on a story by Jorge Luis Borges.  Entitled Zweite Enzyklopädie von Tlön, it evokes in visual terms a lost society like the one described in Borges’ story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

Take a Trip Around America… at the Harvard Fine Arts Library

A grey, Boston winter is soon upon us, we could all use a sunny postcard or two to brighten the day.  Luckily, the Harvard Fine Arts Library has an enormous postcard collection ready for your viewing pleasure.

Atlantic City

Hotel Traymore and Boardwalk, Atlantic City, N.J.

This collection mainly created in the early 20th century focuses on landscapes, architecture, and historical buildings and sculptures, stretching the world over.  Most heavily collected are cards from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, but a substantial number representing Canada, South and Central America, and the United States have recently been sorted and highlighted within the collection.

Lower New York

Lower New York, by Victoria Hutson

Some postcards are classic, colorized landmarks like the boardwalk at Atlantic City, and others have more stylized architecture like artist Victoria Huntson’s rendering of lower New York City.  Others still are wild shots of nature, like the spitting volcano of Kilauea in Hawaii.

Kilauea Volcano

Volcano of Kilauea, Hawaii

The collection is not without humor, and includes goofier cards such as the highly amusing “Busy Person’s Correspondence Card,” in which the sender checks off phrases to assemble a message:

“This burg is   (  )hot as h***   (  )out of sight!    (  )dead   ( X )a swell joint

(  )off the map   (  )classy”

A Busy Person's Correspondence Card

A Busy Person’s Correspondence Card

A few are even more unique, like this one from Ottawa.  When held up to the light, the cut-outs of the windows, moon, streetlamps, and reflections “glow” with sunset colors.

Chateau Laurier-Ottawa

Chateau Laurier-Ottawa. Grand Trunk Railway System

Whether for historical research, artistic inspiration, or just for fun, take a trip to the postcard collection at the Harvard Fine Arts Library.

Don’t forget to write!

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and helping to sort through the American postcards!

Sporting Portraits Collection

Nicknames and Stylish Hair: all a day in the life of a bare-knuckle boxer.

Take a moment to explore images from the Sporting Portraits collection.  This collection contains over 350 photographs, prints, broadsides, clippings, and hand-drawn illustrations from the mid-18th to the 20th centuries.  These portraits captured the likeness of more than 100 American, British, and Irish boxers.

John L. Sullivan

John L. Sullivan

The nicknames and facial hair alone are worth a look through this collection.  Who can resist the classic masculinity of handlebar mustaches?  Peter Maher and John C. Heenan wear them well.

Mustaches aside, a few tough women held their own in this rough sport, one such notable being Bertha Frances.

Bertha Frances

What good is a boxer without an equally intimidating nickname?

  • John C. Heenan “The Benicia Boy”
  • John L. Sullivan  “The Boston Strong Boy”
  • Valentine Braunheim “Knockout Brown”
  • Johnny Murphy “Birmingham Sparrow” (later a boxing instructor at Harvard College)
  • James J. Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
James Jeffires "The Boilermaker"
James Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
John L. Sullivan embroidery

John L. Sullivan “The Boston Strong Boy” in a “Stevengraph” silk embroidery

While only a few images from this extensive collection are available online, the rest are on their way to being digitized.  The collection includes examples of excellent craftsmanship– such as the silk embroidered portrait (known as a “Stevengraph”) of John L. Sullivan– and striking imagery, like Thomas Worth’s illustration of the Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight.  The print is visually compelling even to the most peaceful observer.

Maher Fitzsimmons fight

Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight, depicted by Thomas Worth

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and cataloging the sporting portraits!

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