Curzon family--Bourne & Shepherd [i.e. Colin Murray, and others], Photograph Album Titled 'Rajaputana'. [C.1879; NEGATIVES C.1863-1870S]. Estimate £5,000–7,000.
LONDON - It seems incredible that a mere five years after the invention of photography in 1839, the medium is believed to have appeared in India, dictating how India was perceived and portrayed by European sensibilities.
This collection of 31 albums from the distinguished Indian art historian Sven Gahlin contains over 2,000 images giving an insight into this rich and varied field. Aside from eight individual photographs – which were exhibited at the Photographers’ Gallery in London in 1983 – none of these albums have been seen in public since their acquisition over 40 years ago.
Arni, southern India, Album of Views And Portraits of the Court of Arni. [C.1870S]. Estimate £2,500–3,500.
Among this collection is a special a set of nine albums 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 (1880–84), Lord Dufferin (1884–88) and Lord Lansdowne (1888–94). These albums cover a period of almost 20 years service in India and Southeast Asia, both at work and at leisure ranging from group portraits of the Viceroy on official engagements, meeting various Indian princes, royalty and tribal leaders, together with images of theatricals, picnics in mountains, polo, hunting and riding. Other albums in the sale notable provenances: four finely bound red leather albums are believed to have been commissioned by a member of the Curzon family, while another album comes by descent from the family of the celebrated artist William Prinsep to Mr Gahlin.
Curzon family--Bourne, Samuel, Bourne & Shepherd [i.e. Colin Murray], and others, Photographs of India, Album Titled 'India Dec. 22, 1878', Together with a Few Views of Gibraltar, Malta and Egypt. [C.1878; Negatives C.1860S-1870S]. Estimate £5,000–7,000.
The collection includes beautiful portraits and landscapes by the celebrated photographers Felice Beato, Samuel Borne, John Burke, Charles Shepherd, Fred Bremner and Charles Scowen. The albums depict views across India – including Bombay, Calcutta, Arni, Delhi and Agra – together with stunning views in the Himalayas and Kashmir. There are also images of Ceylon, Burma and Southeast Asia and Singapore, which were also part of the British Empire.
Fine albums of early photographs of India are becoming increasingly rare at auction – this marks a wonderful opportunity to view and acquire these images, which range in date from the mid-1850s to the early 20th century.
Richard Fattorini is a specialist and Director of the Books & Manuscripts department, Sotheby’s London.