Damascus. The Great Mosque and View of Damascus.


This photograph by the firm of Maison Bonfils depicts the Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus (Jāmi' al-Umawī al-Kabīr) as it appeared in the late 19th century. Constructed in the eighth century on the site of earlier places of worship, the mosque is a site of spiritual significance to both Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. It also is said to house the head of John the Baptist. Maison Bonfils was the extraordinarily prolific venture of the French photographer Félix Bonfils (1831-85), his wife Marie-Lydie Cabanis Bonfils (1837-1918), and their son, Adrien Bonfils (1861-1928). The Bonfils moved to Beirut in 1867 and, over the next five decades, their firm produced one of the world's most important bodies of photographic work about the Middle East. Maison Bonfils was known for landscape photographs, panoramas, biblical scenes, and posed “ethnographic” portraits. The family’s marketing acumen and commercial sense helped make their photographs known around the world.

Last updated: January 8, 2018