This magnificient picture – thought to be the oldest surviving photographic image showing the capital – gives us an idea of Pest in the years prior to the 1848 Hungarian Revolution, during the Reform Era.
The picture, taken by an unknown photographer, has been published on the blog of the House of Hungarian Photography, also known as the Manó Mai House after the artist who commissioned its construction in 1894.
The daguerreotype was first introduced to the public at an exhibition in the Albertina Museum, Vienna, in 2006. At the time, Dr. Monika Faber, the curator of the exhibiton of examples of the early photographic process, dated the picture at around 1844 because the building visible on it, bearing the inscription “Gyarmathy”, housed merchant György Gyarmathy’s wine and spice store, which first appeared in directories in 1843. Pedestrians are remarkably clearly visible on the picture, suggesting the already shortened exposure time; however, as the daguerreotype process was used only until the late 1850s, the image cannot be much more recent either.
The 7.8 x 9.7-centimetre daguerreotype shows the University Church, also known as the Church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary, built between 1715 and 1742, with today’s Kecskeméti utca and Kálvin tér in the foreground. The picture was taken well before the creation of today’s Budapest, with the unifications of the formerly self-contained towns of Pest, Buda and Óbuda in 1873.