The construction of the Suez Canal

The construction of the Suez Canal

  • El-Guisr ramp.

    CUVIER Louis

  • El-Ferdane site.

    CUVIER Louis

  • Pertuis under construction, workshops and stores of the company B.L. et Cie.

    CUVIER Louis

  • Inclined plane n ° 11 at Chaloup.

    CUVIER Louis

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Title: El-Guisr ramp.

Author : CUVIER Louis (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 19.9 - Width 26

Technique and other indications: Albumen print. Circa 1866-1867. Album on the Isthmus of Suez.

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 00-026497 / PHO1991-18-16

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

To close

Title: El-Ferdane site.

Author : CUVIER Louis (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 19.8 - Width 26.3

Technique and other indications: Albumen print. Around 1866-1867. Album on the Isthmus of Suez.

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Picture reference: 00-026489 / PHO1991-18-13

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

To close

Title: Pertuis under construction, workshops and stores of the company B.L. et Cie.

Author : CUVIER Louis (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 19.9 - Width 26.1

Technique and other indications: Albumen print. Circa 1866-1867. Album on the Isthmus of Suez.

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 00-026482 / PHO1991-18-10

Pertuis under construction, workshops and stores of the company B.L. et Cie.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

To close

Title: Inclined plane n ° 11 at Chaloup.

Author : CUVIER Louis (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 19.9 - Width 26.1

Technique and other indications: Albumen print. Circa 1866-1867. Album on the Isthmus of Suez.

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowskisite web

Picture reference: 00-026468 / PHO1991-18-5

Inclined plane n ° 11 at Chaloup.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - H. Lewandowski

Publication date: September 2011

Historical context

The Suez Isthmus Album

The project to link the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea by piercing the Isthmus of Suez dates back to Antiquity, but it was not until the 19th century.e century that the Suez Canal was finally built. On November 30, 1854, Ferdinand de Lesseps obtained from the Viceroy of Egypt the concession of the canal area for a period of ninety-nine years, and on May 19, 1855, he founded the Universal Canal Company maritime of Suez, who will supervise the construction of the work from 1859 to 1869.

Designed after the plans of the French engineer Louis Linant de Bellefonds (1799-1883), who made them from 1822 to 1833, and from those of the Austrian Alois Negrelli, the piercing of the Isthmus of Suez includes many stages and several sites. TheSuez Isthmus Album made by Cuvier, photographer in El-Guisr in Egypt, includes the four photos presented in this study.

Image Analysis

Suez sites

The photographs “Rampe d'El-Guisr”, “Chantier d'El-Ferdane”, “Pertuis under construction” and “Inclined plane n ° 11 at Chaloup” were taken in 1866 and 1867. As with most photographs by This album, Cuvier chooses a wide shot and a generally elevated shot.

"Rampe d'El-Guisr" is the most embodied and human cliché, which shows the workers grappling with the ramp, suggesting the importance of the work to be done by the contrast between the ramp, imposing, the boats and the men.

More “distant”, “Chantier d'El-Ferdane”, “Pertuis under construction” and “Inclined plane n ° 11 at Chaloup” owe their composition to the use of perspective and straight lines formed by the watercourse. (“El-Ferdane site”), the canals (“Pertuis under construction”) or the rails (“Inclined plane n ° 11 at Chaloup”). On this last shot, the road thus pierced even seems endless.

Interpretation

The Suez symbol

While it initially has an informative, documentary and even technical vocation (it can be used by the engineers of the Company), theSuez Isthmus Album is also intended as a testimony "for history". A modern archive (use of photography) for an innovative project supposed to mark the progress of the century and indirectly intended for a wider audience. Indeed, the truly “pharaonic” works impress and fascinate a European public (and in particular French) curious about new technical prowess and proud of this triumphant brand of “progress”. The construction of the Suez Canal is the realization of Saint-Simonian ideas.

Cuvier's photographs, even if they remain fairly neutral and objective, are not devoid of artistic or symbolic pretensions. Thus, beyond the great precision of the photographs (all the places and the nature of the works in progress are indicated), the choice of the large plan suggests the immensity of the task, thus referring to a certain mythology (also Egyptian ) of modern pharaonic work. More than the number of workers needed (the men are barely visible), Cuvier insists on the perspective (literally and figuratively) of the realization. "Inclined plane n ° 11 at Chaloup", "Pertuis under construction" and "El-Ferdane site" in particular, which seem to want to emphasize the planned, rational and controlled organization (straight lines, use of rails and of the train) d 'a vast and bare space. If man makes himself "master and possessor of nature", it is almost disembodied.

In this approach, the "peaceful" and almost static atmosphere of the various scenes (effect obtained by the choice of an overall and overhanging vision) rejects the idea of ​​a disorderly and buzzing site, which one could associate to Egypt, to promote that of a mathematical achievement, almost austere and inevitable.

To learn more about the albumen print technique, go to the website Arago, the portal to photography

  • Suez Canal
  • Egypt
  • saint simonism
  • channel
  • engineer

Bibliography

Ferdinand de LESSEPS, Question du Canal de Suez, Paris, Henri Plon, 1860 Nathalie MONTEL, Le Chantier du canal de Suez (1859-1869) A history of technical practices, Paris, Press of the National School of Bridges and Roads , 1998-1999.Catherine SALLES, Le Second Empire, Paris, Larousse, 1985.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The construction of the Suez Canal"


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