Jay A. Bisno Collection of Sevruguin Photographs

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At A Glance

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  • Creator

    Sevruguin, Antoin, 1851-1933
  • Dates

  • Physical Description

    18 Albumen prints (b&w)
  • Collection ID


  • Scope and Contents

    Antoin Sevruguin managed and operated one of the most successful commercial photography studios in Tehran in the late 19th century. Born in the 1840s in Iran, Sevruguin's mother returned with her children to her hometown of Tbilisi after his father Vassil, a Russian diplomat in Iran, died in a horse riding accident. Trained as a painter, Sevruguin returned to Iran in the early 1870s accompanied by his two brothers, establishing a photography studio first in Tabriz and then Tehran. His studio's ties to Tbilisi, however, persisted through the years; many of the early portraits of Dervishes and women have been simultaneously attributed to Antoin Sevruguin and Dimitri Yermakov, the Georgian photographer who is often referred to as Sevruguin's mentor from Tbilisi. Many of Antoin Sevruguin's photographs were published as early as 1885 in travelogues, journals and books indicating that by that time he had a fully established practice in Tehran's Ala al-Dawla street, with ties to the court of Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar. Often unacknowledged as the producer of published images in his own time - the 1902 photographic survey of Persepolis being the most glaring of such authorial misrepresentations - he was nevertheless celebrated and acknowledged for his artistic vision and his keen eye for composition, achieving the Medal of Lion and Sun from Nasir al-Din Shah, the 1897 Medal of Honour in the Brussels International Exposition, and the 1900 Medal of Honour in Paris International Exposition. Reflecting a career that spans nearly half a century, Sevruguin's diverse body of work includes studio portraits of families, women and dervishes, survey photographs of archeological sites, objects, landscapes and architecture, and photographs of royalty, high officials and ceremonies of the Qajar court. The range of his output not only demonstrates his own pictorial concerns and artistic abilities but also the divergent interests of his clients. Despite numerous devastating incidents throughout his career - the loss of more than half of his negatives in a 1908 blast and fire, an unsuccessful attempt at diversifying into cinematography in the 1910s, and the confiscation of the remainder of his negatives in the mid-1920s to name a few - his studio remained operational even after his death in 1933. A number of negatives from the Sevruguin studio can be dated to the years after Antoin's death, indicating that the Sevruguin studio continued to be commercially viable. As one of the most prolific early commercial photographers in Iran, Antoin Sevruguin's artistic legacy has since proved far more enduring.
  • Biographical / Historical

    Jay A. Bisno (b. 1939) was Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History curator of archaeology.
  • Local Numbers

    FSA A.15
  • Date/Time and Place of an Event Note

    Mr. Bisno purchased the eighteen unmounted albumen prints from a shop in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1969.
  • Creator

    Sevruguin, Antoin, 1851-1933
  • Names

    Nāsir al-Dīn Shāh, Shah of Iran, 1831-1896
    Sevruguin, Antoin, 1851-1933
  • Place

    Tehran (Iran)
  • Topic

    Early Photography of Iran
  • Topic

    Clothing and dress
    Criminal procedure
    Executions and executioners
    Portrait photography
    Religious buildings
    Royalty (Nobility)
  • Provenance

    Gift; Jay A. Bisno; 1985.
  • See more items in

    Jay A. Bisno Collection of Sevruguin Photographs
  • Archival Repository

    Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
  • Type

    Collection descriptions
    Archival materials
    Albumen prints
    Photographic prints
    Studio portraits
  • Citation

    Jay Bisno Collection of Sevruguin Photographs. FSA.A.15. National Museum of Asian Art Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of Jay Bisno, 1985
  • Arrangement

    Images indexed by original photographic print number.
  • Rights

    Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository.
  • Genre/Form

    Albumen prints
    Photographic prints
    Studio portraits
  • Restrictions

    Collection is open for research.

Repository Contact

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
National Museum of Asian Art Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013