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Photograph - Colossal Buddha at Lanktilaka

Colossal Buddha at Lanktilaka

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Sri Lanka (photographed)

  • Date:

    1870-71 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Lawton, Joseph (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    albumen print

  • Museum number:

    2244-1912

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This Buddha and the nearby wall are the remains of a birck-vaulted 'image house' which was constructed between 1100-1200 AD. Narrow and very high, the image house had stairways within the brick walls so worshippers could revere the Buddha at different levels. To give a sense of scale to the 18-metre high Buddha, Lawton has placed a man by his foot.

Joseph Lawton (died 1872), a British commercial photographer, was active in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) between 1866 and1872. 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 remains of a colossal brick Buddha is covered with creepers. There is a man near the feet of the Buddha in the bottom left hand side. There is a lot of foliage in the foreground.

Place of Origin

Sri Lanka (photographed)

Date

1870-71 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Lawton, Joseph (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

albumen print

Marks and inscriptions

Lawton and negative number in the left hand corner

Dimensions

Height: 27.5 cm print, Width: 21 cm print, Height: 33 cm mount, Width: 26 cm mount

Object history note

This photograph was one of a set given to the museum by Mrs Moberley. Her late husband George Moberley, had collected them while in India and Ceylon during the1860-70s. See Registry file MA/1/M2393

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 Colossal Buddha at Lanktilaka, Sri Lanka by Joseph Lawton, albumen print, 1870-71

Labels and date

Colossal Buddha at Lankatilaka
Polonnaruwa, 1100–1200
By Joseph Lawton (died 1872)

To give a sense of scale to the 18-metre high Buddha, Lawton has placed a man by his foot. The walls are the remains of a brick-vaulted ‘image house’ which once sheltered the Buddha. Narrow and very high, the image house had stairways within the brick walls so worshippers could revere the Buddha at different levels. [56 words]

Albumen print, 1870–1
Museum no. 2244-1912 [28/04 - 21/06/2009]

Production Note

Likely printed between 1872 and 1882

Techniques

Albumen process

Subjects depicted

Archaeological sites; Buddhism

Categories

Photographs; Archaeology; Buddhism

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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