150-year-old rare photos from Dalhousie collection on sale


New Delhi: Sotheby’s will offer on sale more than 220 newly-discovered photographs by the legendary Linneaus Tripe, depicting India and Myanmar in the mid-1850s, according to a statement issued by the auction house.

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Its “Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History” auction will be held in London Nov 15.

Forty-two of the images have no recorded prints and five are unknown photographs. The collection was once in the possession of Lord Dalhousie, governor-general of British India from 1848 to 1856, and has come to the present owner by inheritance.

The photographs have not been seen by scholars for 150 years and are being offered for sale for the first time, a Sotheby’s spokesperson said.

Tripe was one of the most prolific photographers working to document India in the early days of photography in the 19th century.

According to Sotheby’s spokesperson, Tripe was one of the “greatest photographers working in India in the 19th century and the collection on sale is one of the single largest collections of his photographs ever to have been offered by the auctioneer”.

The lot includes ‘Views of Mysore of 1854’ (estimated at £200,000) and ‘Views of Burma of 1855’ (estimated at £300,000).

The photographs were gifted in 1855 by Tripe to the Governor-General of India, James Andrew Broun-Ramsay, the first Marquess of Dalhousie, known as Lord Dalhousie .

“These rare and beautiful images, printed by Tripe from waxed paper negatives, will rewrite the scholarship on his work. The images are among the first photographs taken of Mysore and Rangoon,” Sotheby’s specialist Richard Fattorini said.

“The Governor-General of India had sent Tripe as part of a ‘Mission to Ava’ in 1855 as an ‘Artist in Photography’. The title was apt because Tripe was truly an artist in his medium, with an extraordinary compositional eye,” Fattorini said.

Ava was the ancient capital of Myanmar, then known as Burma. Tripe (1822-1902) is one of the most important photographic innovators of the 19th century. His works are often stylised with subtle use of light and shade.

Tripe was also a master of photographic printing and used “albumenised” paper and “hypo-sulphite of gold” as a toning agent, which gives his best preserved works a wonderfully rich violet hue.