British photographic history

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Information request: Indian woman in a sari

The carte-de-visite illustrated shows a woman, apparently from the Indian subcontinent, in a sari  and with metal arm bands. It came from an album of British c-de-v which suggests that it might have been taken in Britain.  Does anyone recognise the subject or have any comments about the origin of the sitter?  There is nothing on the back of the card. 

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Comment by Michael Pritchard on December 3, 2018 at 15:26

Many thanks, Hugh. Very helpful. 

Comment by Hugh Ashley Rayner on December 3, 2018 at 11:33


Herewith, a similar style of Nautch girl portrait, also by an unidentified photographer. 

Comment by Hugh Ashley Rayner on December 3, 2018 at 10:12

The woman is Indian, her forehead tikka indicates she was a Hindu, and although it is possible that she was a respectable Indian lady; as she appears in a British album, she was more probably a Nautch girl; who were professional dancers, (and sometimes also  courtesans or high class prostitutes). Many of them had cdv portraits produced, which seem to have been distributed amongst their clients, or given to potential clients. Although some were issued on studio named cdvs, many were anonymous, either produced by established studios, who didn't want to be publicly associated with such images, or by smaller studios who didn't identify any of their cartes at all. Very occasionally the name of the woman is recorded on the back, but most are anonymous. Some established Indian photographers, such as Darogha Abbas Ali, in Lucknow, produced large quantities of such portraits, and whole albums full of them are known.

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