The Asia Minor collection of Paul Gaudin

Gaudin, Paul, French engineer and archaeologist (1858-1921). 95 photographs of Paul Gaudin's collection of antiquities.

N. p. o. d.

13 x 18 to 24 x 30 cm. Glass plate negatives.


Highly interesting photographic documentation of the vast collection that was later dispersed among such important museums as the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Istanbul Museum through donations and sales. The collection was primarily assembled between 1894 and 1905, when Paul Gaudin served as director of the Smyrna-Cassaba railway. During this time, Gaudin led official excavations in the bronze-age Yortan necropolis in Mysia (1898 and 1901) and in the Hellenistic and Roman city of Aphrosidias, Anatolia (1904 and 1905). Some of the objects photographed appear to originate from these archaeological campaigns. The most important part of the collection, however, consisted of figurines from Smyrna (now Izmir) that Gaudin acquired through local antique dealers.

Paul Gaudin was born in Paris, the son of the chemist Marc-Antoine Gaudin (1804-80). His passion for photography was certainly inherited from his pioneering father, who in 1841 introduced the usage of bromine fumes to improve the sensitivity of the plates, allowing for a great reduction of the necessary exposure time, and published the first French journal devoted to photographic research, "La Lumière". In 1880, Paul Gaudin completed his engineering training, obtained a position as deputy stationmaster in Paris, and was subsequently employed as an inspector by the Chemins de fer de l'Ouest. His career took an unexpected turn when he was sent to Turkey in 1892 to direct the Moudania-Brousse railroad line operated by the important Belgian investor and engineer Georges Nagelmackers. As early as 1894, after Nagelmackers had obtained a concession for the Smyrna-Cassaba railway, Gaudin was promoted to director of this important line and led its expansions. Gaudin's most prestigious and challenging position as a railroad engineer, however, was his charge by Sultan Abdul Hamid II to complete the famous Hejaz railway. Despite financial problems, difficult geographical and climatic conditions, and the often hostile (sometimes even violent) reaction of the local population, Gaudin led the rapid expansion of the line from Ma'an to Medina, where the construction came to a definite halt in 1908. During this project, Gaudin was the first to photographically document the Arabic old town of Al-'Ula in 1907.

Little is known of Paul Gaudin's employments after his contract with the Hejaz railway expired in 1909. He briefly collaborated on the disastrous Ottoman project for the construction of a railway line from Hodeidah to Sana'a in 1911 and later appears to have permanently returned to France, where he died in Versailles in 1921. Today, Paul Gaudin is best remembered as a major patron of the Louvre, to which he donated more than 2,000 artifacts from his collection. The Istanbul Museum, the British Museum, and other institutions also owe him important contributions to their Asia Minor antique collections.

Provenance: 1. Collection of Paul Gaudin, family inheritance. 2. Rouillac auction, 20 June 2022, lot 306.

G. Charloux, Paul Gaudin et les premières campagnes de fouilles à Yortan et à Aphrodisias, in: Orient-Express, no. 1, 2001, pp. 24-26.