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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Felice Beato

Other: Felix Beato 
Joint: Robertson & Beato 
Dates:  1832 - 1909
Born:  Italy, Venice
Died:  Italy
Active:  Japan
Early travel and war photographer active from 1853 onwards in the Mediterranean and the Crimea sometimes in partnership with James Robertson. He traveled widely and photographed the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny, in Second Opium War in China, Japan and in the Sudan.
Be careful, as there are two brothers Antonio Beato and Felice Beato (Grove Art explains the mystery.)
NOTE: Place and date of birth
Wikipedia [updated]
[1] Recent scholarship had uncovered an application by Beato for a travel permit in 1858 that included information suggesting he was born in 1833 or 1834 on the island of Corfu. Earlier sources had given his birth date as 1825 or ca. 1825, but these dates may have been confused references to the possible birth date of his brother, Antonio. However, the death certificate discovered in 2009 provides the first definitive evidence of Beato's dates and places of birth and death. (Terry Bennett, History of Photography in China, 1842–1860, p. 241)
[2] Beato has long been described as British, Italian, Corfiot Italian, and/or Greek. The movements of his family and of early nineteenth century history in the Adriatic mean that he can justifiably be described by all these terms. Corfu was on and off part of Venetian territory from 1386 until 1815, when the Treaty of Paris placed it and the other Ionian Islands under British protection. Corfu was ceded to Greece in 1864. A line of the Beato family is recorded as having moved to Corfu in the 17th century and was one of the noble Venetian families that ruled the island during the Republic of Venice. (Terry Bennett, History of Photography in China, 1842–1860, p. 241)
D.F. Rennie, The British Arms in North China and Japan: Peking 1860; Kagoshima 1862, (London: John Murray, 1864) p.112.
Writing on the attack on the Taku Forts in China - 21st August 1860
I walked round the ramparts on the west side. They were thickly strewed with dead—in the north-west angle thirteen were lying in one group round a gun. Signor Beato was here in great excitement, characterising the group as "beautiful," and begging that it might not be interfered with until perpetuated by his photographic apparatus, which was done a few minutes afterwards. Not far from this group, a tall and very dignified-looking man of between fifty and sixty, stated to be the general who had conducted the defence, was lying dead, his lower jaw shattered by a rifle bullet.
Captain S.H. Jones-Parry, My Journey Round the World via Ceylon, New Zealand, Australia, Torres Straits, China, Japan, and the United States, Two Volumes (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1881), Volume II, p.25-26
Captain S.H. Jones-Parry recounts his meeting with Signor Beato in Yokohama:
I must not forget to mention that I met my old friend Signor Beato here. I had first made his acquaintance whilst engaged in photography under the walls of Sebastopol; I next accosted him amidst the blood and carnage at Lucknow; and now finally we met in the streets of Yokohama. Could anyone have chosen three more distant places, or more varied circumstances, to meet under? I have seen some splendid specimens of his art taken at all these places. I mention Beato here because he may be said to be the father of photography in Japan, and many of the best negatives there now are his productions. He was a true artist and not only manipulated well, but chose his subjects carefully and treated them artistically. He established his studio at Yokohama, but finding he had larger fish to fry, he sold his business; and I am sure scores of my old comrades will be glad to hear he is doing well. I think, next to Mrs. Seacole, Beato is as well known to the British army as any private individual. Of course I must dine with him: he, in conjunction with another merchant, runs the club, a very comfortable one, at which my name was immediately put down as an honorary member. He promised that I should meet a lot of good fellows, and he kept his word. At the dinner which would have rivalled Barnum's celebrated breakfast, we had such a polyglot lot! English, Welsh, German, Italian, Russian; judges, counsellors, artists, soldiers, merchants, and diplomatists. The cuisine and wines were first rate. I was introduced to the Russian as one who had killed scores of his countrymen at Sevastopol, and we agreed that drinking good champagne with Beato was better than fighting in the Crimea.
His photographs were used as the basis for illustrations in contemporary books including:
James Furgusson A History of Architecture in all Countries, from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, in three volumes, (London: John Murray, 1867)
R. Mounteney Jephson and Edward Pennell Elmhirst, 9th Regiment, Our Life in Japan. With illustrations from Photographs by Lord Walter Kerr, Signor Beato, and Native Japanese drawings, (London: Chapman and Hall, 1869)
Henry Knollys, Incidents in the China War of 1860 compiled from the Private Journals of General Sir Hope Grant, (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1875)
Alexander Michie, From Peking to Petersburg, Through the Deserts and Steppes of Mongolia, Tartary, &c., (London: John Murray, 1864)
Robert Swinhoe, Narrative of the North China Campaign of 1860; Containing Personal Experiences of Chinese Characters, and of the Moral and Social Condition of the Country; Together with a Description of the Interior of Pekin, (London, Smith, Elder and Co., 1861)

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Felice Beato
Felice Beato 
1866 (ca)
Family history 
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Exhibitions on this website

Theme: War
ThumbnailFelice Beato - India and the Indian Mutiny (1858) 
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ThumbnailFelice Beato - China and the Second Opium War (1860) 
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ThumbnailFelice Beato - Sudan 
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ThumbnailFelice Beato - Burma 
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Theme: War
ThumbnailIndian Mutiny (1858) 
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ThumbnailFelice Beato - Japan 
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Theme: War
ThumbnailSecond Chinese Opium War (1856-1860) 
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Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
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Internet resources

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Felice Beato - Photographic views of Lucknow taken after the Indian Mutiny ... 
Brown University Library, Special Collections, Anne S. K. Brown Military Collections 
Felice Beato ... 
Detailed biography with references. (Wikipedia) 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.49 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.58 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Felice Beato.] 
• Perez, Nissan N. 1988 Focus East: Early Photography in the Near East 1839-1885 (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.) p.131 [Short biography on Felice Beato possibly with example plates.] 
• Weaver, Mike (ed.) 1989 The Art of Photography 1839-1989 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press) p.451 [This exhibition catalogue is for the travelling exhibition that went to Houston, Canberra and London in 1989.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.222-223 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.241 
• Naef, Weston 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum - Handbook of the Photographic Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) p.82 
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Felice Beato are included in this classic history.] 
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