Julius Richard (Biographical details)

Julius Richard (photographer; collector; French; Male; 1816 - 1891)

Also known as

Richard, Julius; Richard, Jules; Mohammed Reza; Riza Khan Richard; Richard Khan; Mirza Riza; Riza Khan


Secretaire Interprête intime du Shah de Perse; photographer; French-language tutor in the Qajar royal college; translator for Nasir al-din shah (r. 1848-1896); first excavator of the site of Rayy.

Richard was brought up in Autrey-les-Gray in the Upper Saone region of France. He spent three years in England where he learnt some medicine, and travelled from Paris to Thran, where he took up residence on 29 October 1844. He was the first foreign photographer to work in Iran where, unlike local photographers, he used the new daguerréotype process and was soon appointed to work for the Persian government. He was requested by Nasir al-din Mirza (later Shah) to produce a photographic record of the ruins at Persepolis and Pasargadae in 1850, but he refused as he considered his process unsuitable, and credit for this instead goes to one of his contemporaries, Luigi Pesce, who carried out this work in 1857. Owing to his fluency in European languages, in 1851 Richard was appointed as a professor of French, English and other subjects to the faculty of the Dar al-Funan (a European-style university in Tehran and the first to teach a secular curriculum in Iran, which was created by Nasir al-din Shah) by the time it opened on 29 December 1851. He also acted as caretaker of the British Mission during the Anglo-Afghan crisis of 1856-57, and served as interpreter to Nasir ad-Din Shah on his visit to Europe in 1873. As such he therefore had very high-placed contacts and appears to have acted as an intermediary in the purchase of items or the soliciation of gifts for the South Kensington Museum (q.v.). Furthermore, Major-General Sir Robert Murdoch Smith (q.v.), formerly a key player in Newton's expedition to Halicarnassus and later Director of the Indo-European Telegraph company, developed a rich Islamic collection from Iran which he sold in different tranches to the South Kensington Museum at least between 1875 and 1889, and which he had partly acquired from Richard, who he describes as "a French gentleman long resident in Persia" (Murdoch Smith 1876, preface). Richard was also the source of a Persian ceramics acquired by Frederick Du Cane Godman (q.v.). The activities of Richard at Rayy had been detailed by Cecil Harcourt Smith (q.v.), then a curator in the Department of Antiquities at the BM, to the Trustees of the British Museum some years before as he noted that "M. Richard of Teheran has made some tentative excavations here, the most interesting result of which was the acquisition of fragments proving the existence here in very early times of the manufacturing of reflêt pottery" (Reports to the Trustees 1887-8, 131). Richard is the anonymous "art connoisseur" mentioned by C.J. Wills in his book on life in Iran. His collection also included 3rd millennium and later antiquities, at least partly acquired in western Iran, of which there is a collection in the Louvre (q.v.) and some of which were sketched by Ernst Herzfeld (q.v.); one additional antiquity of this type was acquired by the V&A and is on long-term loan to The British Museum.

Richard became a Muslim in about 1857 and lived in Iran for some fifteen years or more during which time he is said to have taken two fresh wives each year (Wills 1891, pp. 36-37) and scandalised the French diplomat le comte Arthur de Gobineau by having an affair with a Kurdish girl (Hytier ed. 1959). In 1889, he exhibited a collection of antiquities in Paris which were illustrated by Nasir al-din Shah in his Ruznâme-ye safar-e sevvom-e Farangestân / The third Tour of the Shah of Persia in Europe (Bombay 1890/91), p. 278. He died in Tehran on 20 May 1891 and is buried in the Ab-Anbâr-e Qâsem Khân cemetery on the Tehran/Rayy road.


C. Adle with Y. Zoka, "Notes et documents sur la photographie iranienne et son histoire : I. les premiers daguerreotypistes c. 1844-1854/1260-1270", 'Studia Iranica' 12/2 (1983), pp. 249-80; R. Murdoch Smith, 'Persian Art' (London 1876); Reports to the Trustees of the British Museum 1887-88; C.J. Wills, 'In the Land of the Lion and Sun, or Modern Persia, being experiences of life in Persia from 1866 to 1881' (London 1891, reprint); A.D. Hytier ed., 'Les dépêches diplomatiques du Comte de Gobineau en Perse' (Geneva: E. Droz, 1959), pp. 85-87, 93-94; F.N. Bohrer, ed., 'Sevruguin and the Persian Image. Photographs of Iran, 1870-1930' (Seattle/London: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery & University of Washington Press), p. 20; Leonard Helfgott, "Carpet Collecting in Iran, 1873-1883: Robert Murdoch Smith and the Formation of the Modern Persian Carpet Industry", 'Muqarnas' 8 (1991), pp. 171-81; Tomoko Masuya, "Persian Tiles on European Walls: Collecting Ilkhanid Tiles in Nineteenth-Century Europe", 'Ars Orientalis' XXX (2000), pp. 39-53 (especially pp. 43-44).