British photographic history

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Auction: Art of Imperial India. Photographs of Imperial India and Southeast Asia, 8 October 2014

Sotheby’s is to auction a magnificent collection of 31 albums, containing over 2,000 photographs of India and Southeast Asia, assembled by the distinguished Indian art historian, collector, and dealer, Sven Gahlin during the 1960s.Apart from 8 individual photographs which were exhibited at the Photographers’ Gallery in London in 1983, none of the albums have ever been exhibited or seen in public since their acquisition over 40 years ago.

Fine albums of early photographs of India are becoming increasingly scarce at auction, and so it is a wonderful opportunity to view and acquire these images which range in date from the mid-1850s to the early twentieth century. The collection includes beautiful portraits and landscapes by the celebrated photographers Felice Beato, Samuel Bourne, John Burke, Charles Shepherd, Fred Bremner, and Charles Scowen.

The albums depict views across India (including Bombay, Calcutta, Arni, Cawnpore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Agra etc.), together with stunning views in the Himalayas and Kashmir. The albums also contain fine images of Ceylon, Burma and Southeast Asia (including Singapore), which were then part of the British Empire.

Many of the albums have notable provenances: four finely bound red leather albums (lots 343-346) are believed to have been commissioned by a member of the Curzon family, and one album (lot 350) came by descent from the family of the celebrated artist William Prinsep to Mr Gahlin. Of particular interest is a set of 9 albums (lots 351-359) which were compiled by Lt. Col. Charles Harbord, 6th baron Suffield. Harbord had the privileged position as aide-de-camp to three successive Viceroys of India: Lord Ripon (1880-1884), Lord Dufferin (1884-1888), and Lord Lansdowne (1888-1894). The Suffield albums cover a period of almost 20 years of service in India and Southeast Asia, at work and at leisure; the photographs include formal group portraits of the Viceroys on official engagements, together with images of leisure, such as polo matches, theatricals, picnics in the mountains, hunting, and riding.

View the catalogue online:

http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/2014/art-imperial-india-l14502....

Auction details: 

Art of Imperial India. Photographs of Imperial India and Southeast Asia: The Sven Gahlin Collection 1857 - 1914

London, Wednesday, 8 October 2014, 2.30pm

Exhibition dates: Friday, 3 October 9am-4.30pm; Sunday 5, 12noon-5pm; Monday 6, 9am-4.30pm;  Tuesday 7, 9am-4.30pm

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