Photographs of the Elliot Marbles: and Other Subjects; in the Central Museum, Madras

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    Swann Galleries, New York, 24 March 2011, lot 9
    Private Collection, England

  • Literature

    Dewan, The Photographs of Linneaus Tripe: A Catalogue Raisonné, pp. 607-675

  • Catalogue Essay

    Captain Linnaeus Tripe’s images of the Elliot Marbles, featured in the album offered here, transcend their documentary purpose, attaining a degree of aesthetic achievement on-par with the best of his work. In 1858, Tripe received a government commission to photograph the collection of ancient limestone sculpture then housed in the Central Museum, Madras. These works, some dating as early as 200 BCE, document the life of the Buddha. They were excavated by Walter Elliot from the Amaravati Stupa in Southern India in 1845 and later transferred to Madras, where they were catalogued and dubbed the Elliot Marbles. They are now known as the Amaravati Marbles, and are currently housed in the British Museum.

    Photographing these sculptures and reliefs in the poorly lit museum rooms at Madras posed a technical challenge for Tripe. The photographic materials available to him in the second decade of the medium’s existence were primitive, and the heat of the subcontinent made their performance unpredictable. But Tripe had honed his skills in difficult conditions and applied his considerable experience to the task of recording this important ancient artwork. Tripe made expert use of available light to coax out the lively grace of the Marbles, and their divine, human, and animal forms are beautifully defined in this album’s finely rendered prints.

    Janet Dewan, in her authoritative volume, The Photographs of Linnaeus Tripe: A Catalogue Raisonné, lists 13 examples of this album in institutional collections, among them the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin. The present album is one of a scant handful of examples of this seminal work to have appeared at auction.

24

Photographs of the Elliot Marbles: and Other Subjects; in the Central Museum, Madras

Varying dimensions from 6 3/4 x 2 3/8 in. (17.1 x 6 cm) to 13 1/2 x 10 1/4 in. (34.3 x 26 cm) or the reverse.
Madras, India, 1858. An album containing 75 albumenized salt prints mounted to 51 pages, all but one page with Tripe’s ‘Photographer to Government’ blindstamp, and captions and page numbers in an unidentified hand in ink on the pages. Oblong folio, black-lettered boards; housed in a modern clamshell box with gilt-lettered title label. Accompanied by 8 anonymous albumen prints of sculpture at Mahabalipuram, India.

Estimate
$40,000 - 60,000 

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Photographs

New York Auction 1 October 2019