Elliot Marbles and Other Sculpture from the Central Museum Madras: Group 26
In 1853 the newly founded Government Central Museum in Madras acquired a collection of notable marble sculptures that the Scottish Orientalist Walter Elliot had excavated from the Buddhist stupa at Amaravati in south India in 1845. A contemporary author referred to them as the "Elliot marbles," linking them to the recently discovered "Elgin marbles" from ancient Greece. The guardian lion, central column section, and stepped base date from the second century, and the relief of the standing bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara dates from the eighth century. Tripe photographed them where they had been left haphazardly on the grounds of the museum, their display showing no understanding of their original location or arrangement.
Linnaeus Tripe (British, Devonport (Plymouth Dock) 1822–1902 Devonport)
With the invention of photography, the eighteenth-century British passion for recording exotic lands and studies of the peoples in India was given new impetus. The earliest photography on the continent dates from 1840 in Calcutta, the political center of British India. The technology for photography arrived in India quickly became popular among the local rulers-many of whom employed photographers at their courts-as well as the British who had come to make their fortunes in the colony. For both populations, the new medium replaced painting as the method for recording the local landscape, architecture, people, and important events.