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Photograph - Tanjore. Great pagoda, main entrance to the bimanum

Tanjore. Great pagoda, main entrance to the bimanum

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Thanjavur (photographed)

  • Date:

    March 1858 to April 1858 (photographed)
    1860 (printed and published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tripe, Linnaeus, born 1822 - died 1902 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from waxed paper (calotype) negative

  • Credit Line:

    Given by E. S. Storrs

  • Museum number:

    IS.2196-1933

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Linnaeus Tripe (1822–1902) documented much of south India as official photographer to the Madras government (1856–1860). This photograph was taken in Tanjore, or Thanjavur, and shows a temple within the Brihadisvara temple complex.

Physical description

This black and white photograph shows an open space within a temple complex, with a covered temple structure containing a bull on the left and two gopura, or gateways, in the centre distance. In the background are trees. On the left is a thin tree.

Place of Origin

Thanjavur (photographed)

Date

March 1858 to April 1858 (photographed)
1860 (printed and published)

Artist/maker

Tripe, Linnaeus, born 1822 - died 1902 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from waxed paper (calotype) negative

Dimensions

Height: 265 mm photographic print, Width: 374 mm photographic print

Object history note

This photograph was taken as part of Tripe's remit as the government photographer, which he himself defined broadly, as recording, ‘before they disappear’ buildings, sculptures and inscriptions…' including the picturesque. This was a model for an extensive survey, including tuition of others and experimentation in his own practice. He was funded by the Madras government, but intended selling additional copies of some prints so that his practice could be self-funding.

This photograph was formerly in the Tripe family collections, owned by Mrs E. S. Storrs. It was shown in the 1860 Madras exhibition.

Historical significance: Tripe's photographs of South India are an important body of work within Tripe's oeuvre, and are recognised as being some of the most aesthetically and technically competent images of India made in the 19th century.
Tripe entered as total of 50 photographs from his 1857–8 tour of South India in the 1859 annual exhibition of the Madras Photographic Society. The jury dubbed his photographs ‘the best in the Exhibition’ but as Tripe could not be classed an amateur, he could not win the gold medal. Tripe declined the silver medal amicably, since he considered that as an official photographer he had an unfair advantage over the other entrants.
Tripe’s photographs were valued for their informational value and their technical quality. The adjudicating committee stated that Tripe’s photographs ‘illustrate admirably the architecture of the Hindoo Temples and Places of Southern India, and in particular the Madura and Tanjore series comprise in this respect all that is most worthy of record in those cities.’ (See Dewan, p.16). Forty-six of Tripe’s 50 exhibited images were made from paper (calotype) negatives, which the committee didn't feel were as successful as dry collodion-on-glass negatives, however, declaring that ‘the superiority of definition given by Collodion [-on-glass] is very visible when placed side by side with them.’ It is thought that Tripe prefered paper to glass negatives due to paper being easier and safer to work with.

Historical context note

The southern districts tour and Madras presidency photographs, 1857–58
The Madras government appointed Tripe as photographer following the 1855 directive from the Court of Directors in London, who discouraged illustration in favour of ‘photography as a means by which representations may be obtained of scenes and buildings, with the advantages of perfect accuracy, small expenditure of time, and moderate cash’, and asked that photography be the main means of recording architecture and antiquities (Dewan, p.6).

As official photographer to the Madras Government, Tripe set off from Bangalore on 14 December 1857 after delays due to waiting for modifications to his new English camera, and his recovery after falling from a horse. He ended his tour in Madras on 30 April 1858 after travelling via Seeringham, Trichinopoly, Madura, then Poodoocottah, Tanjore, and Trichinopoly again.
All of these areas had been forcefully taken under British rule in the previous one hundred years, but Tripe looked for scenes or subjects with architectural or antiquarian interest rather than political significance. He had wanted to ensure his images were practical too: before he had set out he had asked the chief engineer for guidance on what would be most useful from an engineering perspective, and incorporated this input into his work.

Descriptive line

Photograph, 19th century; Tanjore: Great Temple [Pagoda]. The first and second gopurams and the outer enclosure by Capt. Linnaeus Tripe, South India, 1858

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Dewan, Janet. The Photographs of Linnaeus Tripe: A Catalogue Raisonné. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2003, p.480.

Production Note

Edition number unknown. There are at least 7 surviving copies.

Attribution note: The Royal Photographic Society holds the waxed paper negative.
Reason For Production: Commission

Subjects depicted

Tree; Bull; Gopura; Pagoda; Temple

Categories

Photographs; Religion

Production Type

Limited edition

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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