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Photograph - Sigiria- The Fortified Rock: stone retaining walls, and remains of a Gateway on the west side.
  • Sigiria- The Fortified Rock: stone retaining walls, and remains of a Gateway on the west side.
    Lawton, Joseph
  • Enlarge image

Sigiria- The Fortified Rock: stone retaining walls, and remains of a Gateway on the west side.

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Sri Lanka (photographed)

  • Date:

    1870s (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Lawton, Joseph (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print

  • Museum number:

    82775

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The royal fort and palace at Sigiriya was built by King Kashyapa between 477-485. It was surrounded by a wall and double moat. The stone remains and gateway in this photograph may have formed part of the protective wall.

Joseph Lawton (died 1872), a British commercial photographer, was active in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) between 1866 and 1872. Though he was initially employed by the firm HC Bryde, by the mid 1860s he had established his own studio in Kandy. Lawton was commissioned by the Archaeological Committee to photograph the main archaeological sites in Sri Lanka. He created a unique series of aesthetically powerful images of Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya.

Official photographic surveys conducted by Lawton and others documented the architecture and facilitated antiquarian scholarship. However, as a commercial photographer, Lawton made sure that his photographs were not merely documentary. His images were taken to appeal to tourists and overseas buyers seeking picturesque views of ancient ruins overgrown with creepers and gnarled trees.

Physical description

The ruins of a stone built wall, with an opening in the centre. In the background are standing trees and in the foreground are fallen trees as well as other scattered stone remains.

Place of Origin

Sri Lanka (photographed)

Date

1870s (photographed)

Artist/maker

Lawton, Joseph (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print

Marks and inscriptions

LAWTON 93
Written on negative and appears in the bottome left hand corner of the print.

Dimensions

Width: 281 mm photographic print, Height: 217 mm photographic print, Width: 328 mm mount, Height: 259 mm mount

Object history note

This photograph was one of a set purchased by the museum from Lawton and Co. in 1882. See Photograph Register 81259-86096, Modern Volume, 13.
The register entry is dated to 24.4.82, and the cost is noted as £16.43.4

The photograph was initially part of the photographic collection held in the National Art Library. The markings on the mount are an indication of the history of the object, its movement through the museum and the way in which it is categorised.

The mount is white. In the top right corner of the mount is a label which reads: A.in.SIGIRIA. A label printed with title is pasted underneath the photograph. The museum number is written in the bottom right hand corner.

Historical significance: Built by King Kashyapa between 477-485, the Royal Fort and palace was surrounded by a wall and double moat. The stone remains and gateway in this photograph may have formed part of the protective wall.

Historical context note

This is one of a series of photographs taken by Lawton of the archaeological sites of Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya (1870-71). This series was commissioned by the Archaeological Committee (set up by the Governor of Ceylon in 1868) and became his signature work. Photographic surveys, conducted by Lawton and competitors such as the more prolific commercial firm WLH Skeen and Co., coincided with antiquarian scholarship that emerged as a result of the deforestation necessary to lay roadways, railways and plantations in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This process was propelled by an expansion of both the export and tourist economies. A colleague of Lawton's proposed that his involvement in the physical labour of clearing the archaeological sites that he photographed contributed to his death. After Lawton's death, many prints were produced by the firm for the tourist market, however, the original negatives were sold to a variety of different clients and are now considered to be lost.

Descriptive line

Photograph of the ruins near the Royal Palace at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, by Joseph Lawton, albumen print, 1870-1.

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

Regeneration: A Reappraisal of Photography in Ceylon, 1850-1900. London: British Council, 2000. ISBN 086355444X
Falconer, John. Pattern of photographic surveys: Joseph Lawton in Ceylon. In: Pelizzari, Maria Antonella. ed. Traces of India: Photography, Architecture, and the Politics of Representation, 1850-1900. Montréal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2003. 156-173p., ISBN 0920785743.

Production Note

Likely printed between 1872 and 1882

Attribution note: This is one of a series of photographs taken by Lawton of the archaeological sites of Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya (1870-71), commissioned by the Archaeological Committee which the Governor of Ceylon set up in 1868. Two sets of these photographs were produced by Lawton: one which remained in Sri Lanka (now in such poor condition it is considered to be unusable) and a second which was sent to the Colonial Office in London (first kept in the Library of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and now in The National Archives). After Lawton's death in 1872, further images were produced by the firm under the supervision of his wife and sold largely to a tourist market. Reprints of this particular photograph appear in an album currently held in the Word and Image Department (PH.1202:85-1920) as well as in the Scott Collection (92/16/3) within the India Office Select Materials of the British Library.

Techniques

Albumen process

Subjects depicted

Archaeological sites

Categories

Photographs; Archaeology

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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