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Franz Duschek Jr.
Self portrait of Franz Duschek
Library of the Romanian Academy
Inventory nr: F I 94627
The photography is part of a photographic album entitled "Schützen-gesellschaft - Bucarest haupt Schiessen 1866", shelfmark AF II 645, that gathers together the portraits of all the members, carte-de-visite format portraits by: Franz Duschek (Bucharest), Carol Popp de Szathmari (Bucharest), K. F. Zipser (Bucharest), Friedrich Schiller (Wien), M. B. Baer (Bucharest) and many others.
Text: Adrian-Silvan Ionescu, Photographers in Romania 1840-1940
Franz Duschek, self portrait (Prague 1830?-1884 Alexandria, Egipt), was a distinguished photographer in Bucharest where he settled in 1862. He opened an elegant studio on Strada Noua (New Street) which soon became the most fashionable one and attracted the high society. Each one wanted to have his or her likeness taken at Duschek. During the carnival, after every costumed ball, those who took part came for a portrait in the appropriate costume. He was also a master of children portraits which were the most difficult to be taken. Giving them puppets or candies he tried to distract their attention while posing for the frightening camers. But sometimes he had to ask their mothers or nurses to pose beside in order to quiet and encourage them. He was attracted also by the folk types and took pictures with costumes now and then even though he hadn’t produced large series as those of Szathmari’s. He was more interested in architecture and cityscapes and produced some unforgettable pictures. After Prince Alexandru Ioan’s abdication on 11th February 1866 he took portraits to all the conspirators and edited a carte-de-visit series which was later lithographed on larger format by his colleague M. B. Baer. He also portrayed the new ruler, Prince Carol I, after his arrival. The young prince posed both in civilian clothes and in military uniform for those portraits. As a reward, the prince bestowed on Duschek the title of Court Photographer on 8 April 1867. Ten years later, at the outbreak of the Oriental War of 1877, Duschek followed the armies on the battlefield. It is still a matter of conjecture why was he affiliated to the Russian and not to the Romanian troops. From the beginning he documented the progress of the Russian armies both in its camps in and around Ploiesti - where the Tsar and the Grand Dukes were accommodated in the most elegant houses of the town – and after the crossing of the Danube, in Bulgaria. His camp scenes and military portraits are full of vividness. He also immortalised the meeting between Prince Carol I of Romania and Tsar Alexander II, surrounded by the Grand Dukes and his staff at Gorni Studen . In one picture he showed Prince Carol I in his coach heading for the battlefield. As a keepsake he took a self portrait on the porch of a poor Bulgarian house which he shared with Andreas D. Reiser during the war. His pictures circulated either as independent copies or bound in albums, each plate labelled in German and with the author’s name and address on its back. Some of his pictures were reproduced, mostly anonimous, as woodcuts, in the European and American illustrated magazines. For this accomplishment he was awarded the Prussian Golden Medal for the Arts, the Austrian Golden Cross for Merit (Goldenes Verdienskreuz) and the Romanian Bene Merenti medal, while the tsar offered him a precious ring adorned with a large diamond. In 1878 he printed this distinctions on the back of his pictures. The campaign hardships ruined Duschek’s health, who was already a freil man. His consumption progressed and, in 1883, he decided to leave Romania for a milder climate. Selling his interests in Bucharest he went to Egypt where he died a year later. His legacy is one of the most important in the Romanian history of photography.