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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