Well of Joab, Jerusalem

Well of Joab, Jerusalem


James Robertson

(British, 1813 (?)-aft 1865)

Felice A. Beato

(British, 1830-1906)

Salt print from wet collodion negative

Image: 25 x 29.7 cm (9 13/16 x 11 11/16 in.); Mounted: 45.6 x 59.3 cm (17 15/16 x 23 3/8 in.); Matted: 50.8 x 61 cm (20 x 24 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1998.157



This charming view of the Well of Joab resulted from the pioneering photographic collaboration of James Robertson and his brother-in-law, Felice Beato, while on a trip to the Near East in 1857. Their high quality, large, beautifully executed, and carefully composed photographs are products of the first known use of the wet-collodion process in the Holy Land. The images depict the most holy places in and near Jerusalem, typically recording the sites from striking points of view, as in the lush salt print Well of Joab, Jerusalem. The camera was pointed upward, producing a three-quarter view of the well’s architectural stone ruins, which appear to merge into the rocky surface of the hilly background. In the foreground of the composition, a solitary seated figure establishes scale and instills this otherwise desolate scene with a sense of humanity. Of the Holy Land photographers, Robertson and Beato were the first to successfully integrate human figures into the surrounding scenery of their compositions.

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