Linnaeus Tripe, Photographs of the Elliot Marbles; and Other Subjects; In the Central Museum Madras, album with 75 photographs, 1858 to 1859. Estimate: $35,000 to $45,000.
The photographs contained in Linnaeus Tripe’s album, Photographs of the Elliot Marbles, in the March 24th Fine Photographs auction, were produced by Captain Tripe at the request of the Madras (currently Chennai, India) Government after a four-and-a-half month tour through the Trichinopoly, Madura and Tanjore Districts. The photographs were made from May to June 1858; printed from August 1858 to March 1859; and the album was assembled in the autumn of 1859.
Because of their weight, the majority of the sculptures were not moved into the open air, but photographed as they were lying in the various rooms of the Central Museum, Madras. The printing of the images began at Bangalore under the supervision of Tripe’s chief assistant, C. Iyahsawmy Pillay. Once started, Tripe opted to white out the backgrounds of some of the negatives, which he found to be distracting.
The Amaravati Stupa, which dates between the third century B.C. and the third century A.D., is located in the Guntur District of the Eastern Ghats. In 1845, the antiquarian Walter Elliot continued further excavations on the site, which had been neglected for centuries. The sculptures he recovered were sent to Madras, and in 1856, they were placed in the south wing of the museum. The sculptures were numbered by surgeon Edward Balfour, the officer in charge of the museum, and interpreted by the Reverend William Taylor. After being photographed by Tripe, the collection was sent to the Court of Directors of the East India Company in London, and when the museum dissolved in 1879, the sculptures were acquired by the British Museum, where they remain to this day.