First image: A striking early portrait of the Prince Regent. Inscribed boldly in his hand, diagonally across the image, with title, signature and date (1924). Signed in the image at the bottom left by the photographer. Also signed lower down on the mount and to its verso by the photographer, with his Paris address. We have been unable to determine the identity of the photographer. Image size: 28 x 18.4cm. Laid down on original mount with narrow gilt surround. Mount is worn with short tears to the edges. Some light wear to the photograph. Second image: A portrait of the Empress Zäwditu. Blind stamp of the court photographer B.M. Boyardjian, Addis-Abeba, Ethiopie, stamped directly onto the photograph, lower right corner. Image size: 27.5 x 22cm. Laid down on original mount. Mount damaged with some loss. Third image: A group photograph with Prince Ras Tafari Makonnen seated amongst members of court. Blind stamp of the court photographer B.M. Boyadjian, Addis-Abeba, Ethiopie to the lower right. Image size: 17 x 22.4cm. Laid down on original mount. Fourth image: A group photograph with Prince Ras Tafari Makonnen seated amongst members of his retinue and English hosts with their dogs. Taken on his visit to London in 1924. Details on the mount of the photographer, S.J. Muir, West Ealing and Gerrards Cross. Image size: 15 x 20cm. On April 16th 1924 the Prince Regent departed on a mission to Europe. The Regent knew that the path leading to real independence for Ethiopia was to establish a link to the Red Sea for his land-locked country. The official visit of the regent began on May 16th 1924 in Paris where he was received with great fanfare and was compared to a “young prince from the Thousand and One Nights.’ A prince whose linage could apparently be traced back to King Solomon. The photographic portrait is unusual in that it shows a round faced, cheerful looking Prince Ras Tafari. A reflection probably of his warm welcome by the French and before he was slowly worn down by the lack of success in achieving access for Ethiopia to the Red Sea. So in all likelihood a photograph taken at the start of this mission. It would appear from the London photograph, by S.J. Muir, that the Prince now found himself in a far less welcoming place. “The official visit in England did not full fill the hopes of the Regent. He was received with a welter of arrogance and downright incompetence.” according to Harald G. Marcus (1984:27). King George V did not come to Victoria Station to welcome the regent, nor the heir to the crown, the Prince of Wales, who was in Paris to attend the Olympic Games. Regarding Ethiopia’s access to the sea, the Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald did not show any enthusiasm when discussing at 10 Downing Street. The immaculately dressed African nobles provide a disturbing contrast to their English hosts who look as though they have just strolled from a lawn tea party, dogs draped and half-smoked cigarettes dangling. The other two photographs besides their early Ethiopian historical significance have the added interest of both bearing the blind stamp of the Armenian court photographer Bedros Boyadjian. In 1906 Menelik II invited Boyadjian to settle in Addis Ababa where he was appointed official photographer to the court of Ethiopia. The Boyadjians were to retain their legacy as royal photographers with Haygaz and Tony Boyadjian maintaining the dynasty. Bibliography The Visit of Ras Tafari in Europe (1924): between Hopes of Independence and Colonial Realities. Boris Monin. Annales d’Ethiopie / Annee 2013 / 28 / pp. 383 – 389. The Boyadjians Armenian Photographers at the Court of the Negus. Le Petit Journal # 29.
Date Published: c.1924