13
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington Part 2

Exhibition dates: 21 September 2014 – 4th January 2015

 

Part two of this wonderful posting, including Tripe’s most famous photograph: Elephant Rock, End View, January – February 1858 (below).

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Most of the text underneath the images is from the British Library website.

 

Captain Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902)

From an upper-middle-class family in Devonport, England, Tripe joined the British East India Company in 1839 and was assigned to the 12th Madras Native Infantry. After several years of deployment in India, he returned to England in 1851 and began to explore an interest in photography. In 1853 he joined the Photographic Society of London.

Reflecting his military training as an officer in the British army, Tripe had great technical success in India and Burma, even though the tropical heat and humidity affected photographic chemistry. Yet Tripe’s destiny as a photographer was linked to the fate of the British Empire in India. Despite his professional achievements and technical innovations, rebellions in the late 1850s prompted a new era of oversight and regulations for the recently nationalized East India Company, and the British government took over the administration and rule of India, making it a crown colony. Tripe was forced to close his studio in 1860 because of cost-cutting measures, and he almost completely abandoned photography as a result.

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Amerapoora: Corner of Mygabhoodee-tee Kyoung, September 1 - October 21, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Amerapoora: Corner of Mygabhoodee-tee Kyoung, September 1 – October 21, 1855
1855
27.3 × 34.4 cm (10 3/4 × 13 1/2 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe, from a portfolio of 120 prints, with a close view of the wood-carving at the corner of a kyaung (monastery) near where the British delegation was housed at Amarapura in Burma (Myanmar). Tripe wrote of this kyaung, ‘This small monastery, near the Residency, attracted much attention from the richness of its carving and the beauty of its situation’. The Burmese are highly skilled at wood-carving, creating designs of great beauty, intricacy and fluidity.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Amerapoora: Part of Balcony on the South Side of Maha-oung-meeay-liy-mhan Kyoung, September 1-October 21, 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Amerapoora: Part of Balcony on the South Side of Maha-oung-meeay-liy-mhan Kyoung, September 1 – October 21, 1855
1855
26.9 × 34.7 cm (10 5/8 × 13 5/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe, from a portfolio of 120 prints, with a close-up detail of the wood-carved balcony of a kyaung (monastery) at Amarapura in Burma (Myanmar). Wood-carving is a living tradition in Burma, its artisans are supremely skilled in carving a rich repertoire of motifs from myths and legends and floral patterns into different types of woods. Tripe wrote of this scene, ‘This is open scroll-work, and very beautiful’.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Rangoon: Near View of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Rangoon: Near View of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855
1855
34.5 × 27.2 cm (13 5/8 × 10 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Edward J. Lenkin Fund

 

The Shwedagon Pagoda, officially named Shwedagon Zedi Daw and also known in English as the Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda, is a gilded pagoda and stupa 99 metres (325 ft) in height[citation needed] that is located in Yangon, Burma. The pagoda lies to the west of Kandawgyi Lake, on Singuttara Hill, thus dominating the skyline of the city. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese people. According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda has existed for more than 2,600 years, making it the oldest historical pagoda in Burma and the world. According to some historians and archaeologists, however, the pagoda was built by the Mon people between the 6th and 10th centuries AD.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Rangoon: Henzas on the East Side of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Rangoon: Henzas on the East Side of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, November 1855
1855
26.1 × 34.3 cm (10 1/4 × 13 1/2 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Buddy Taub Foundation, Dennis A. Roach and Jill Roach, Directors, and Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe, from a portfolio of 120 prints, with a view of the hinthas or hamsas (mythical birds) atop sacred flagstaffs or dagun-daings of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda at Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma (Myanmar). Linnaeus Tripe wrote, ‘These, painted in bright colours diapered with gold and silver (traces of which still remain) must have had a very gay appearance. Henza [hintha] staves are attached to all pagodas’. The hintha bird (or hamsa in Sanskrit) features in many Jataka tales: the stories which narrate details of the Buddha’s previous lives.

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Rangoon: Signal Pagoda, November 1855' 1855

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Rangoon: Signal Pagoda, November 1855
1855
26 × 34.6 cm (10 1/4 × 13 5/8 in.)
Private Collection, Courtesy Hans P. Kraus Jr.

 

Photograph by Linnaeus Tripe, from a portfolio of 120 prints, showing the Signal Pagoda at Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma (Myanmar). In this view of the pagoda the chinthes or leogryphs (Burmese temple guardian figures) can be glimpsed facing the roadway at the entrance. The circular object hanging from a yard at the top of the pagoda is presumably a time ball. Tripe wrote, ‘From this a very extended view of the town and river can be had. It is used as a signal station because of the distance at which a ship coming up the river can be descried. It is also known as Sale’s Pagoda’. The Sale referred to is Sir Robert Henry Sale, who was stationed on the site with a picket during the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-26). Sale (1782-1845) was an army officer who had served in India, and then played an active role in the capture of Rangoon as commander of the 13th. At the time of the mission’s visit the administration of the rapidly growing port was not well-developed. The pilot system did not work well, there was no pilot service and pilotage was left to private initiative, there were rival bands of pilots with their own pilot-brigs. They later combined to form the Pilot Club and this club fixed the rate of pilotage by agreement with the owners and captains of the vessels. The signalling station was at the Sale Barracks where the pagoda known as Sale’s Pagoda was used for the purpose and thenceforth began to be called the Signal Pagoda of Rangoon.

 

Linnaeus Tripe 'Royacottah: View from the Top of the Hill, Looking North-Northwest and by North, December 1857 - January 1858'

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Royacottah: View from the Top of the Hill, Looking North-Northwest and by North, December 1857 – January 1858
c. 1857-58
26 x 35.6 cm (10 1/4 x 14 in.)
Collection of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Beekinpully: Permaul's Swing at Mariammah Covil, December 1857 - January 1858'

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Beekinpully: Permaul’s Swing at Mariammah Covil, December 1857 – January 1858
c. 1857-58
26 × 35.6 cm (10 1/4 × 14 in.)
Collection of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Between Chittumputty and Teramboor: Elephant Rock, End View, January-February 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Between Chittumputty and Teramboor: Elephant Rock, End View, January – February 1858
1858
23.8 × 36.8 cm (9 3/8 × 14 1/2 in.)
The British Library, London

 

This photograph of the Elephant Rock near Madurai in Tamilnadu, is part of a collection entitled Photographic Views in Madurai (Madras, 1858) and was taken by Linnaeus Tripe in 1858. It shows a general view of ”an enormous mass of granite or sienite situated to the north of the town of Madura, altogether isolated from the neighbouring hills, and when viewed from the S.E. or S.W. bearing a strong resemblance to a couchant elephant, with its trunk extended in front…The rock is about 11/4 miles long; and 250 feet high, measuring to the top of the elephant’s head.”

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Madura: The Vygay River, with Causeway, across to Madura, January – February 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Madura: The Vygay River, with Causeway, across to Madura, January – February 1858
1858
23.1 x 35.4 cm (9 1/8 x 14 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
The Carolyn Brody Fund and Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Madura: Pillars in the Recessed Portico in the Raya Gopurum, with the Base of One of the Four Sculpted Monoliths, January - February 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Madura: Pillars in the Recessed Portico in the Raya Gopurum, with the Base of One of the Four Sculpted Monoliths, January – February 1858
1858
35.6 × 28.1 cm (14 × 11 in.)
The British Library, London

 

This photograph of an archictectural detail from the Meenakshi Sundareshvara temple, Madurai, Tamilnadu, is part of a collection entitled ‘Photographic Views in Madurai ‘ (Madras, 1858) and was taken by Linnaeus Tripe in 1858. The Meenakshi Sundareshvara Temple is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Meenakshi, an ancient local divinity. The construction of this imposing temple-town was made possible by the magnificence of Tirumala Nayak (1623-1659). The rectangular precinct covers 6 hectares and has 11 huge towers and 4 entrance gopurams. Inside this enclosure there are columned mandapas, tanks, shrines and the two temples of Shiva and Meenakshi. East of the temple Tirumala Nayak began the construction of a new gopuram which was never completed. The most remarkable feature are 4 monolithic pillars. This view shows the base of one of the monoliths together with the elaborately carved pillars in the recessed north portico of the Raja Gopuram.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Madura: The Blackburn Testimonial, January - February 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Madura: The Blackburn Testimonial, January – February 1858
1858
25.3 × 35.1 cm (10 × 13 7/8 in.)
The British Library, London

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Madura: The Great Pagoda Jewels, January - February 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Madura: The Great Pagoda Jewels, January – February 1858
1858
21.9 × 30.1 cm (8 5/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Cynthia Hazen Polsky Gift, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

This photograph of the temple jewels of the Meenakshi Sundareshvara temple, Madurai, Tamilnadu, is part of a collection entitled Photographic Views in Madurai (Madras, 1858) and was taken by Linnaeus Tripe in 1858. The Meenakshi Sundareshvara Temple is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Meenakshi, the fish-eyed goddess Parvati. The construction of this imposing temple-town was made possible by the magnificence of Tirumala Nayak (1623-1659). The rectangular precinct covers 6 hectares and has 11 huge towers and 4 entrance gopurams. Inside this enclosure there are columned mandapas, tanks, shrines and the two temples of Shiva and Meenakshi. This is a collection of jewels and ornaments for use on festival occasions, including crowns, necklaces, gold and pearl pieces and naga images.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Tanjore: Wrought-Iron Gun on a Cavalier in the Fort, March - April 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Tanjore: Wrought-Iron Gun on a Cavalier in the Fort, March – April 1858
1858
26.1 × 36.1 cm (10 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The British Library, London

 

The term Cavalier has been adopted from the French as a term in fortification for a work of great height constructed in the interior of a fort, bastion or other defence, so as to fire over the main parapet without interfering with the fire of the latter. A greater volume of fire can thus be obtained, but the great height of the cavalier makes it an easy target for a besieger’s guns.

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Central Museum Madras: Group 27, May - June 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Central Museum Madras: Group 27, May – June 1858
1858
23.4 × 29.9 cm (9 1/4 × 11 3/4 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, Cynthia Hazen Polsky Gift and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1991
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Linnaeus Tripe. 'Elliot Marbles and Other Sculpture from the Central Museum Madras: Group 26, May - June 1858' 1858

 

Linnaeus Tripe
Elliot Marbles and Other Sculpture from the Central Museum Madras: Group 26, May – June 1858
1858
25.8 × 23.2 cm (10 1/8 × 9 1/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Rubel Collection
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace and Richard and Ronay Menschel Gifts, 1997
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

The Amaravati Sculptures, Amaravati Marbles or the Elliot Marbles are a series of monumental sculptures and inscriptions that once furnished the religious mound known as the Great Stupa at Amaravati. While some artefacts remain in situ, many are scattered in various museums across the world, with the two principal collections held at the Government Museum in Chennai and the British Museum in London.

The figurative sculptures are nearly all in relief, with many of the most crowded scenes illustrating some of the Jataka tales, a large body of literature with complicated and fanciful accounts of the previous lives of the Buddha. The collection in the museum in Chennai (formerly Madras) has a large number of sculptures in relief, which they have classified by four periods of activity starting in the second century BC and stretching to the second century AD. The first period covers the 100 years between 200 and 100 BC, the second period covers 200 years from 100 BC to AD 100, the third covers AD 100 to 150, and the fourth covers 150 to 200. Early interest in the stupa and its sculptures was in part because it was wrongly thought to contain early evidence of Christianity in India.

In 1845, Sir Walter Elliot of the Madras Civil Service explored the area around the stupa and excavated near the west gate of the railing, removing many sculptures to Madras (now Chennai). They were kept outside the local college before being transported to the Madras Museum. At this time India was run by the East India Company and it was to that company that the curator of the museum appealed. The curator Dr Edward Balfour was concerned that the artefacts were deteriorating so in 1853 he started to raise a case for them to be moved. By 1855 he had arranged for both photographs and drawings to be made of the artefacts now called the Elliot Marbles. 75 photographs taken by Captain Linnaeus Tripe are now in the British Library. (Text from Wikipedia)

The photographs are of variable quality, and the volume contains a short preface explaining the reasons for this: ‘These photographs were taken by Captain tripe in the months of May and June, after a wearying tour through the Trichinopoly, Madura, and Tanjore Districts, during the preceding four months and a half. Many of the subjects being heavy masses, and therefore not easily to be transported into the open air, were taken as they were lying, in the rooms of the Museum. To enable him to attempt them at all he was obliged to use a dry collodion process, with which he had only recently made acquaintance. He would point to both these circumstances to account for the unsatisfactory pictures he has made of some of the Sculptures. In printing from the above mentioned negatives, their density, though apparently in their favor, increased the liability to yellowness in the lights, so much complained of in toning a print on albumenised paper with gold…'”

Linnaeus Tripe, Photographs of the Elliot Marbles; and other subjects; in the Central Museum Madras (Madras, 1858-59)

 

 

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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