An Englishman abroad: Sir James Emerson Tennent in Ceylon, 1845-50: Robin Jones discusses a remarkable collection that reveals much about the impact of British taste on art and craft in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in the 19th century.
Tennent was appointed Colonial Secretary of the Ceylon government in 1845 and arrived in the island later in that year (Fig. 2). (4) His intelligence, educational background and experience, both as Member of Parliament and administrator, seemed to equip him with many of the qualities found in the best of the colonial service. He had been a friend of Lord Byron and an acquaintance of Jeremy Bentham and Charles Dickens; in fact, in his youth, he had shared Byron's enthusiasm for Greek independence as well as his passion for the culture of ancient Greece. (5) Educated at Trinity. College, Dublin and trained as a lawyer, Tennent was elected MP for Belfast in 1832 as a supporter of the Reform Bill. During his parliamentary career, he showed great interest in the relationship between design and the production of manufactured articles and in 1841 published A Treatise on the Copyright of Designs.
He was also instrumental in guiding the Copyright of Designs Bill through parliament in the following year. (6) He served as Secretary to the Board of Control for India between 1841 and 1843, was knighted by the King of Greece for services to that country in 1842 and three years later received the same honour from Queen Victoria. (7) However, his subsequent support for Catholic emancipation in Ireland prevented him from contesting his Belfast seat again and, when offered an alternative career, he therefore accepted the post of Colonial Secretary. (8)
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
TENNENT IN CEYLON
Despite his evident potential, however, Tennent's tenure as Colonial Secretary of the Ceylon government was not a particular success in either political or administrative terms. When he accepted the position, he entertained the hope that he might eventually succeed to the governorship of the island on the retirement of the incumbent, Sir Colin Campbell (9) However, the new Secretary of State for the Colonies, the third Earl Grey, distrusted him, as did the newly appointed Governor of Ceylon, Viscount Torrington. Under the leadership of Torrington and Tennent, the colonial government of Ceylon faced a series of testing problems, which were either mishandled through lack of experience or hampered by an inability to win the whole-hearted support of the civil service on the island; furthermore, Tennennt unwittingly attracted the opposition of the colony's powerful newspaper proprietors. (10)
The most serious problem that faced the colonial administration in Ceylon during Tennent's term as Colonial Secretary occurred in 1848, with the outbreak of a small-scale rebellion, concentrated in the central highlands of the island, or Kandyan Districts, provoked by the administration's recently imposed tax rise on the island's population. This rebellion and its heavy-handed suppression led to Tennent's recall to London in 1850, where he faced a parliamentary committee of enquiry into the events of 1848. (11)
CEYLON: AN ACCOUNT OF THE ISLAND
If Tennent's administrative career in Ceylon had been something of a disappointment, then he gained consolation from his researches into the natural, religious and political history of the island, which, in 1859, bore fruit in his two-volume Ceylon: An Account of the Island, Physical, Historical and Topographical. (12) This book, which went through five editions, remained until well into the 20th century the standard history of the island. (13) Kingsley de Silva, the foremost present-day historian of the island, has described Tennent's work in the following glowing terms: Today its value lies in the magnificent picture of the Sri Lanka of his day, a study on a lavish scale, comprehensive and vastly interesting ... his book on Ceylon became a classic virtually from the moment it was published.' (14) This meticulously researched work, which runs to over 1,000 pages, is illustrated with a series of engravings by a number of artists resident on the island, including Hippolyte Sylvaf and Andrew Nicholl, in addition to the work of other artists, government surveyors, surgeons and naturalists? (15) Nicholl is credited as the source of 30 illustrations, the largest single contribution of images to the work.
When he took up his post as Colonial Secretary, Tennent was immediately struck, like so many Europeans who had travelled to Ceylon before him, by the breathtaking beauty of the island. At the beginning of his opening chapter he wrote: 'Ceylon, from whatever direction it is approached, unfolds a scene of loveliness and grandeur unsurpassed, if it be rivalled, by any land in the universe.' (16) He was writing at a time when Europeans in Asia had, since the 1780s, brought a picturesque sensibility to bear on the lands in which they found themselves; this quality was also commonly expressed in the works of art that they commissioned from European artists working in the east. (17) Tennent was deeply impressed not only by the varied beauty of the landscape, but also by the brooding majesty of the ruined, ancient cities in the centre of the island--Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa (18)--then half-covered by jungle. (19) He was equally impressed by the ancient and massive irrigation systems to the north of these buried cities, then, similarly, in a state of utter disrepair.
Andrew Nicholl (1804-86) was both a fellow Ulsterman and exact contemporary of Tennent, who was to become one of his most important patrons, (20) In 1846 Nicholl was appointed teacher of landscape painting, scientific drawing and design at the recently founded Colombo Academy and it is most probable that Tennent obtained this position for him. (21) Nicholl was employed to teach drawing to Ceylonese students, not so much to create a pool of trained local artists but with the intention of improving local craft design, which was believed by the British on the island to be in decline. (22) During his sojourn on the island, Nicholl sketched many scenes in and around Colombo, the capital of the colony, including Galle Face Green, his own bungalow in Cinnamon Gardens and various views of Elie House, Mutwal, Tennent's official residence as Colonial Secretary. (23) The Langham family collections contained two such views, a watercolour (Fig. 1) and a pencil sketch. (24)
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In July 1848, as part of his duties as Colonial Secretary, Tennent undertook a tour through the central highlands of the island, accompanied by Nicholl as draughtsman. (25) In addition to the sketches he produced on this tour, Nicholl also wrote an account of this journey, which was published in 1852, after his return to Britain. (26) Tennent, Nicholl and the rest of their party travelled to Kandy, the ancient capital of the central highlands (captured by the British in 1815), then proceeded north to visit the rock-temple of Dambulla, the fortified town and royal palace of Sigiri and beyond to Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, taking in other sites of archaeological and scenic interest en route. Nicholl sketched prolifically during this tour and made many views of the ancient architecture and sculpture in the centre of the island, which had recently been 'discovered' by the British; his drawings are amongst the earliest visual record of these sites. After four weeks, Nicholl left the main party to continue his work but encountered an outbreak of the rebellion that had erupted at Matale, just north of Kandy. He was, therefore, forced to divert to the north-west and returned to Colombo along the coastal route, eventually arriving at the colonial capital in an exhausted state. However, the few weeks he spent in central Ceylon had a profound effect upon him, as he later wrote:
Thus terminated my sketch tour through the forests of Ceylon ... the most interesting I ever had in my life; and though attended with both danger and fatigue, yet the enjoyment which I derived from it far more than compensated for the hardship of the journey, and will ever be considered by me the most delightful of all my sketching excursions, either at home or in distant lands. (27)
Tennent included many engravings of Nicholl's sketches in Ceylon: An Account of the Island, especially those of the ancient sites. Amongst the most interesting images of this type included in the Langham family collections sale is a pencil sketch, later worked up in ink, of a massive carved granite figure of the recumbent Buddha, together with a standing figure, who most probably represents Ananda, both located within the precincts of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa (Fig. 3). (28) These sculptures (together with two other figures of the Buddha in close proximity but not shown in Nicholl's sketch), carved out of a rocky outcrop, are known collectively as Uttararama Vihara or, as they have been described more recently Gal Vihara (Fig. 3). (29) Nicholl's sketch is inscribed with pencil on the lower right side: 'Gal wihare [sic]/Topare (30) /Ceylon'. (31) Nicholl does not show the rock pillow on which the Buddha's head rests, nor his right hand, placed under the head. These features were still covered by earth and were not excavated for another 20 years. Evidence of the image house, which formerly surrounded the figure of the Buddha (and all the sculptures) is seen in the foreground. The sketch forms a working drawing for a larger image representing all four sculptures, which appears on page 1,032 of Tennent's work. Nicholl described this temple as: 'by far the freest specimen of ancient sculpture in Ceylon ... These beautiful sculptures are executed with great care and skill; some of them would reflect credit on any age or country ... [the] remains are sharp and perfect as if fresh from the hands of the sculptor.' (32) In addition to sketches of the ancient cities, Tennent also acquired many other drawings from Nicholl of the landscape and natural history of the island (Fig. 4). (33)
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Another artist who received Tennent's patronage in Ceylon, especially in relation to the depiction of the island's flora and fauna, was Hippolyte Sylvaf (or Silvaf; 1801-79), described in The Ceylon Times of October 1854 as 'a French European from Pondicherry [India]'. (34) Sylvaf emigrated to Ceylon in the 1820s and set himself up as a portrait painter and teacher of drawing at 7, First Cross Street, Pettah, Colombo. (35) In contrast to much of the output of European artists working in South Asia in the first half of the 19th century, most of the extant work attributed to Sylvaf depicts town life and the dress of different elements within the local population.
By 1839 Sylvaf had executed an extensive series of watercolours of the varied costumes of Ceylon, for which he hoped to secure British government patronage; with this expectation he dedicated the series to the governor of the colony, Sir Robert Wilmot Horton. (36) Unfortunately, this work was never published as Sylvaf had intended, although a number of watercolours from the series were engraved and appeared in A.M. Ferguson's Souvenirs of Ceylon (1869). (37) Tennent commissioned from Sylvaf several drawings of local natural-history subjects of which a number were engraved for Ceylon: An Account of the Island. (38) Ismeth Raheem has noted that although contemporary accounts record Sylvaf as 'a prolific painter of natural history subjects, very few of these have survived.' (39) Fortunately, the Langham family collections contained a number of these, including beautifully executed watercolours of a pigeon, a turtle and other subjects (Figs. 5, 6 and 7). (40)
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FURNITURE AND OTHER WOODEN OBJECTS COMMISSIONED BY TENNENT IN CEYLON
In addition to amassing visual images of the island, Tennent also acquired a number of items of furniture and small wooden objects manufactured by local craftsmen. On taking up his appointment as Colonial Secretary, Tennent soon became aware that he resided at the South Asian heartland for the production of high-quality carved ebony furniture. (41) In Ceylon: An Account of the Island he referred to 'the carpenters and cabinet-makers inhabiting the villages and towns on the southern coast, from Mamra [Matara] to Colombo, who produce the carved ebony furniture, so highly prized by Europeans.' (42) More specifically, he pinpointed the main area from where the best of such furniture came, namely Galle, both the name of a district and a fortified town on the south-west coast of Ceylon. He described the craftsmen of Galle in the following manner: 'the principal handicraftsmen are cabinet-makers, carpenters and carvers in Calamander-wood, ebony and ivory. Their skill in this work is quite remarkable, considering the simplicity of their implements and tools.' (43)
By acquiring furniture during his residency in Ceylon, Tennent followed a pattern established by earlier British colonial administrators. For example, from the early 19th century, a number of British governors of the island had accumulated collections of locally manufactured furniture and other items, some of which had been shipped back to Britain at the end of their tenure. The earliest recorded collection was that of Sir Robert Brownrigg, governor of Ceylon between 1812 and 1820. Amongst the items sold after his death in 1833 at his country house in Monmouthshire and most probably originating in Ceylon was a 'magnificent Bookcase of Coromandel [calamander] wood; cabinets filled with rare Indian birds stuffed; Shells; numerous Cingalese Books and Gold and Silver ornaments [etc.]. (44) During his residence on the island, Brownrigg also acquired an impressive free-standing gilded bronze figure sculpture of Tara, which he donated to the British Museum in 1830. (45) One of the most voracious British collectors of Ceylonese furniture (as well as other local artefacts) was Sir Edward Barnes, governor from 1821 to 1834. (46) His collection of carved ebony furniture has been briefly referred to elsewhere. (47) It contained many items of furniture distinct to the island, including a type of carved ebony table with specimen-wood top, columnar support and carved, three part base in the form of sacred geese (hamsa). (48) Barnes continued to order furniture from Ceylonese cabinet-makers after he had left Ceylon. (49)
In addition to these collections, senior British civil servants on the island furnished their houses with items manufactured locally; indeed, such collections provide a context for Tennent's commissions. (50) For example, in 1841, Mrs Griffiths, a British resident temporarily living in the town of Galle described the furnishings of the most senior civil servant in that region, George Hinde Cripps. (51) She noted that his bungalow, on high ground outside the Fort of Galle, was: 'filled with the most magnificent furniture I ever saw, both ancient and modern.' She continued:
Mr C. being ... Government Agent for the Southern Province, has had every facility for collecting [Galle furniture] and having it carved by the best workmen. It is composed principally of ebony and the rooms are so full of massive chairs, tables, cabinets and caskets of all sizes and shapes that it is difficult to turn around in them, they are all most elaborately carved and the tables beautifully inlaid with most costly woods. (52)
One problem encountered by British patrons in their dealings with local cabinet-makers was the length of time taken to complete an order. In 1850, for example, a contemporary commentator, Henry Charles Sirr, noted of the commissioning process:
This manufacture is most tedious, and, as the Cingalese ... do not practise a division of labour, it frequently happens that one man will take from three to six months to complete a small occasional table for which he will receive a hundred rix-dollars, or seven pounds ten shillings in our money; and we knew an instance of one, who held high official appointment, having been compelled to wait a year and a half for a loo-table, for which he paid thirty pounds? (53)
Sirr was writing at precisely the time that Tennent was resident in Ceylon, although, unfortunately, it is not possible to ascertain to which senior colonial administrator he is referring.
In common with many of his contemporaries, Tennent showed great interest in the role of design within the process of manufacture. (54) He was resident on the island at a time when the British believed there was a need to intervene in the process of training local craftsmen in order to improve their productions; although keen to praise the local cabinet-makers for their skill, he was less complimentary, about their ability to design. Regarding the products of the cabinetmakers, carpenters and carvers, he noted: 'owing to their deficiency in design, and the want of proper models, their unaided productions are by no means in accordance with European tastes.' (55) The furniture belonging to Tennent that was sold as part of the Langham family collections is evidence of the application of 'proper models' or designs via a European patron to the products of local cabinetmakers. Many contemporary commentators noted the facility of the local cabinetmakers in using a two--dimensional pattern or 'muster', usually supplied to them by European patrons. For example, in 1841 Mrs Griffiths wrote of the cabinetmakers in Galle and Colombo that 'they will never undertake to do anything, however trifling without some kind of pattern or muster, as they term it.' (56),
One of the largest pieces of furniture belonging to Tennent in the Langham family collections was a carved ebony pedestal sideboard with galleried and mirrored superstructure that is clearly based on a mid-19th-century British model (Fig. 8). (57) The lower part is carved with peacocks, pineapples, repeating plant motifs and elephant head 'capitals', all of which prefigure a style of surface decoration found on furniture produced on the island in the second half of the 19th century, many pieces of which were sent to various international exhibitions in Europe and beyond. (58) This sideboard is one of the earliest examples of a securely provenanced and datable item of such furniture, whose iconography communicated particularly British forms of knowledge about the material culture of Ceylon. Tennent apparently commissioned this item in 1849 from craftsmen in Galle. (59) It is tempting to speculate that Nicholl may have provided some designs for the surface decoration of this and similar objects. In addition, whilst in Ceylon, Tennent also acquired a smaller two-door side cabinet, made of the rarest Ceylonese timber, calamander wood (Fig. 9). (60) In a similar manner to the carved ebony sideboard, the picturesque attributes (from a British perspective) of the island have been represented in this piece of furniture, the front of which presents three carved and applied figures, each in the stylised form of a disave or chief in the Kandyan kingdom, a region of the island recently brought under British control. (61) Tennent also owned a carved ebony tub chair of a form derived from a contemporary English model, but with carved decoration that incorporates Asian elements such as elephant-head capitals and a stylised makara torana form around the curved toprail. (62)
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Tennent's collection contained in addition small wooden objects also produced by craftsmen along the southwest coast of Ceylon. These include carved ebony representations of the peoples and costumes of the island, including a figure of a mudaliyar from the southwest coast and a figure of a disave from the central highlands (Fig. 12). A mudaliyar was a chief headman or local administrator of a district during the 19th century. The figure of the mudaliyar is depicted accurately with the hair held with a comb, a frogged long coat of European form, a medallion presented for service to the British administration, a short sword, wrapped and patterned skirt-cloth and European shoes. The Kandyan chief is likewise depicted with great attention to detail; the figure is carved with round hat (vata-toppiya), short jacket with attached short cape (hettaya with mante), and patterned wearing-cloth 'ten cubits long' (tuppotiya), which is fixed with a belt (patiya); the figure also wears pattens on his feet. The British, in both India and Ceylon, were equally troubled and fascinated by the diversity of local society; depictions of the distinctive garb of different levels within that society helped to locate individual members of the local population within this apparently bewildering diversity. These ebony figures were most probably produced at Matara, a small town close to Galle on the south coast of the island and recorded as the centre of production for such items. (63) Although distinctively Ceylonese in terms of their iconography and material, they relate to similar small models of the peoples and castes of India. (64) A number of other small wooden objects also formed part of Tennent's collection, including a pair of ebony, ivory and porcupine-quill book troughs (Fig. 11) of contemporary British form, but distinctively local materials and workmanship, as well as other articles. (65)
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In conclusion, the collection of pictures and furniture formed by Tennent in Ceylon can be interpreted on a number of levels: it presents a rare glimpse of the visual culture of the British elite residing in south Asia during the mid-1800s; it provides evidence of British interventions within the traditional crafts on the island; a number of the drawings in Tennent's collection form the earliest visual record of two of the great archaeological sites in Asia; and, finally, the collection is lent an added coherence and significance through its ownership by the foremost British historian of the island and author of Ceylon: An Account of the Island.
Robin Jones is Principal Lecturer in Design History and Visual Culture at Southampton Solent University.
The works illustrated in this article are reproduced by the courtesy of Hamilton Osborne King Fine Art, Dublin.
I would like to thank Sara Kenny and Caroline Clarke of Hamilton Osborne King Fine Art for their assistance in the preparation of this article.
(1) For example, see Mildred Archer, 'The British as Collectors and Patrons in India, 1760-1830', in Mildred Archer, Christopher Rowell and Robert Skelton, Treasures from India: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle, London, 1987; Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters, Chicago and London, 1992; and Lucian Harris, 'British collecting of Indian art and artefacts in the 18th and early 19th centuries', PhD thesis, University of Sussex, 2002.
(2) Ceylon was a Crown Colony 1802 1948. In 1972 it became Sri Lanka.
(3) Hamilton Osborne King Fine Art, Dublin, 'The Langham Family Collections from Cottesbrooke Hall and Tempo Manor', Monday 27 September 2004, lots 218-313. Sir James Tennent's collection passed to the Langham family on the marriage of his granddaughter, Ethel (Jenny) Emerson Tennent to Sir (Herbert) Charles Langham, 13th Bt, in 1893.
(4) Most of the biographical information regarding Tennent relies on Kingsley M. de Silva, 'Sir James Emerson Tennent: Colonial Administrator and Historian', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, vol. XLI special number, 1996, pp. 13-37; G.C. Boase, The Dictionary National Biography, London, 1898, vol. LVI and ibid., rev Elizabeth Baigent, The Oxford Dictionary, of National Biography, Oxford, 2004 (hereafter DNB).
(5) K.M. De Silva, op. cit., p. 14.
(6) DNB, vol. LVI, p. 65.
(9) Sir Colin Campbell was Governor of Ceylon 1841 47. On his departure, Tennent acted as Governor until the arrival of Viscount Torrington. See H.A.J. Hulugalle, British Governors of Ceylon, Colombo, 1963, pp. 67-74.
(10) Tennent's appointment was unpopular with senior civil servants on the island. They were demoralised by government reform of their conditions of service and expected one of their own number to be appointed Colonial Secretary
(11) In December 1850 Tennent was gazetted governor of St Helena but did not take up the appointment. He briefly became Me for Lisburn in 1852 and was Permanent Secretary to the Poor-Law Board. In 1852 he became Secretary to the Board of Trade. On his retirement in 1867 he was created a baronet (DNB)..
(12) The full tide is Ceylon: An Account of the Island, Physical Historical and Topographical with Notices of its Natural History, Antiquities and Productions, 2 vols., London, 1859. Tennent also wrote Christianity in Ceylon, London, 1850; Sketches of the Natural History of Ceylon, London, 1861; and The Wild Elephant and the Method of Capturing it and Taming it in Ceylon London 1867.
(13) De Silva, op. cit., p. 24.
(14) Ibid., p. 25. Lot 248 ill the sale of the Langham family collections comprised the galley proofs and other archival papers for either the 4th or the 5th editions of Ceylon. Another archive of Tennent's papers relating to the book was sold at Bonhams, Knightsbridge, 'Printed Books, Maps and Manuscripts', 8 June 1999, lot 268.
(15) Other artists whose work was reproduced in Ceylon included Mrs Brunker (most probably Mrs. Marion Branker, wife of Deputy Adiutant General of the British Regiment in Ceylon, a collection of whose 'Ceylon Drawings 1846-1852' are in the library of the University of Peradeniya, Kandy Sri Lanka); Mr Fairholme and Mr J. Wolf (Joseph Wolf RI, 1820-99).
(16) J.E. Tennent, Cylon, revised 4th edition, London, 1860, vol. 1, p. 3.
(17) See Giles Tillotson, "The Indian Picturesque: Images of India in British Landscape Painting, 1780-1880', in C.A. Bayly (ed.), The Raft India and the British, 1600-1947, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London, 1991, pp. 141-51.
(18) See K.M. de Silva, a History of Sri Lanka, Chennai, pp. 17 and 60.
(19) The earliest European description of Polonnaruwa was written in 1820 by Lieutenant Mitchell Henry Fagan of the 2nd Ceylon Regiment. See John Falconer, Regeneration. A reappraisal of photography in Ceylon, 1850-1900, London, 2000, D 20 and idem, 'Pattern of Photographic Surveys: Joseph Lawton in Ceylon', in Maria Antonella Pelizzari (ed.), Traces of India: Photography, Architecture and the Politics of Representation 1850-1900, Montreal, New Haven, London, 2003, p. 301.
(20) For Nicholl's career, see Martyn Anglesea, 'Andrew Nichon and his Patrons in Ireland and Ceylon', Ulster Museum Studies, Summer, 1982, pp. 130-51; see also S. Lakdusinge and R.K. de Silva (eds.), Exhibition of Andrew Nicholl Watercolours at the National Museum, Colombo, exh. cat., Department of National Museums, Colombo, 1998.
(21) Anglesea, op cit., p. 132.
(22) Ibid., p. 139.
(23) Elie House, Mutwal, Colombo, was built by Philip Anstruther, Tennent's predecessor as Colonial Secretary.
(24) Lots 257 and 258, 24 September 2004.
(25) Anglesea, op. cit., p. 143.
(26) Andrew Nicholl, "A sketching tour of five weeks in the forest of Ceylon--its ruined temples, colossal statues, tanks [reservoirs], dagobahs [stupas], etc.', Part 1, Dubhn University Magazine, vol. XL, 1852, p. 527; Part 2, vol. xl, p. 691; cited in Anglesea, op. cit., pp. 143 and 151.
(27) Anglesea, op. cir, pp. 143 and 151.
(28) See E.F.C. Ludowyk, The Footprint of the Buddha, London, 1958, pp. 156-57; and S.D Saparamadu (ed.), The Polonnaruwa Period, Dehiwala, 1973).
(29) Vihara: temple.
(30) The old name for Polonnaruwa.
(31) The sketch has a further pencil inscription, erroneously inked over with the words: 'colossal statue of Buddha 50 feet long/Annaradgapura Ceylon'. The Gal Vihara group of sculptures is at Polonnaruwa.
(32) Lakdusinge and R.K. de Silva, op. tit., p. 8.
(33) Such as the sketch of a baby elephant reproduced here, a preparatory drawing for a watercolour in the National Museum, Colombo; ibid., p. 36.
(34) For Hippolyte Sylvaf, see Ismeth Raheem, Catalogue of an Exhibition of Paintings, Engravings [and] Drawings of Ceylon 19th Centuury Artists, Colombo, 1986, pp. 4547. In Tennent's Ceylon, Sylvaf's name is misspelt Sylvat.
(35) Raheem, op. cit., p. 45.
(36) Ibid., p. 46.
(37) A.M. Ferguson, Souvenirs of Ceylon: A Series of One Hundred and Twenty, Illustrations of the Varied Coast, River and Mountain Scenery ..., London, 1869.
(38) Tennent included four engravings from Sylvaf's drawings in Ceylon.
(39) Raheem, op. cit., p. 46.
(40) Watercolours by Sylvaf included in the Langham family collections: lot 250--Study of a pigeon, signed and annotated carfeophaga pasilla; lot 251--Uropeltis grandis, Keland (specimen in British Museum); lot 252--A lizard; lot 234--A turtle, signed and annotated d'apres nature Emys rijuga, grey, lot 255-a Ceylonese elephant and its mahout, signed and inscribed d'apres nature, Siribery--hauteur de Pepaule au pied, 6 pieds (10) pouces anglais--longeur de front a la queue, 7 pieds 11 pouces.
(41) See the present author's introductory essay on furniture from Ceylon and catalogue entries for Ceylonese furniture in A. Jaffer, Furniture from India India and Ceylon, V&A, London, 200l); see also Robin Jones, 'Hewavitarne Don Carolis: A Case Study of a Nineteenth Century Colombo Furniture Maker', Regional Furniture, vol. XIV, 2000, pp. 7486; '"Furniture of Plain but Substantial Kind" at the British Governors' Houses in Ceylon, c. 1830-1860', Studies in the Decorative Arts, vol. x, no. 1 (Fall Winter 2002), pp. 2-34; 'Furniture from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at International Exhibitions and World's Fairs, 1831-1904,' Furniture History, vol. XL, 2004, pp. 113-34;' "Furnished in English style": Anglicization of local elite domestic interiors in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), 1850-1910', South Asian Studies, vol. xx, 2004, pp. 45-46.
(42) Tennent, op. cit. in n. 16 above.
(43) Ibid., vol. n, p. 633.
(44) Most of Brownrigg's collection was shipped from Ceylon to England in February 1820 on the Eclipse. It included five couches and large quantifies of ebony and other timbers: Port Clearance, Colombo Custom House, 1 February 1820 in the George Steuart & Co. archive, Colombo, Sri Lanka; I am grateful to Mr Scott Dirckse for allowing access to this archive. See also the sale announcement in The Monmouthshire Merlin, Saturday 10 August 1833.
(45) P.H.D.H. de Silva, A Catalogue of Antiquities and other Cultural Objects from Sri Lanka (Ceylon) Abroad, Colombo, 1975, p. 190. This figure (acc. no. OA 1830.6-12.41, c.1.4 metres high, is now thought to date between the 7th and 8th centuries (not the 10th as De Silva states); its original location is believed to have been a temple complex on the north-eastern coast of Ceylon between Trincomalee and Batticaloa.
(46) K.M. de Silva, op. cit. in n. 18 above, p. 572.
(47) British Library, London: A Catlogue/ of / the Splendid Assemblage of Ebony and Coromandel-Wood Furniture/ Removed from Beech Hill House, Herts ... Manufactured for the Late Sir Edward Barnes during his residence in Ceylon. See also my contribution in Jaffer, op. cit., pp. 363-65.
(48) For example, lot 106 was described as: 'A 3-feet circular Centre Table of ebony, the top inlaid with various specimens of fancy wood, the edge finished with ivory and ebony a la Grecque border, on turned pillar, and finely-carved claws, terminating with peacock's heads."
(49) H.A.J. Hulugalle, British Governors of Ceylon, Colombo, 1963, p. 48. 80 In contrast to India, civil servants in Ceylon spent long periods of dine in the same posting or at least in the same location on the island. This enabled them to acquire examples of the costly, tardily produced furniture of local makers: London the National Archives, co 54/301, A List of the Civil Service of Ceylon, Colombo, 1853.
(51) The Library University of Peradeniya, Kandy, Sri Lanka: MS, Major and Mrs G. Darby Griffiths, 'Ceylon During a Residence during the years 1840 1841', vol. m, p. 130; Cripps was Government Agent and Fiscal for the southern province of the island, 1838-50.
(52) Ibid., p. 130.
(53) Henry Charles Sirr, Ceylon and the Cingalese, London, 1850, vol. II, p. 267.
(54) See n. 6 above.
(55) Tennent, op. cit. in n. 16 above, p. 633.
(56) Griffiths, op. cit., vol l, p. 59, 23 March 1841.
(57) Lot 286, 27 September 20114.
(58) See Jones, 'Furniture from Ceylon at International Exhibitions', op. cir., pp. 113-34. Anglesea notes that: 'one specimen of Nicholl's design work ... in the Ulster Museum's collection, is a decorative floral pattern drawn in pencil as if for a wallpaper design ... This is inscribed "Ceylon 1846" and gives some idea of the type of work Nicholl would have been teaching in Colombo.' Anglesea, op. cit., p. 140.
(59) Lot 286: 'AN ANGLO-CYLONESE CARVED EBONY SIDEBOARD, commissioned by Sir james Emerson Tennent in the Galle District in 1849'.
(60) Lot 287, 27 ptember 2004, mistakenly dcscribed as 'Coromandel wood' in the catalogue. The Calamander tree (a member of the ebony species diospyros quaesita) found only in Sri Lanka, is now very rare.
(61) John Davy included an engraving of figures in traditional Kandyan dress, including a representation of a disave in his Account of the Interior of Orion, London, 1821, opp. p. 114. Although depicting Kandyan figures the cabinet was almost certainly made in the Galle District, as no furniture was made in the Kandyan regions at this period.
(62) Makara torana--makara archway; makara is a mythic beast resembling a dolphin or crocodile, with a snout like a shortened elephant's trunk and bird like body: A.K. Coomaraswamy, Medieval Sinhalese Art, Broad Campden, 1908, p. 84. The back of the chair contains a recess, which may have contained an ivory insert.
(63) James Whitechurch Bennett, Ceylon and its Capabilities, London, 1843, p. 328: of the products of 'Matura' or Matara he notes 'carved figures of the native castes, are manufactured here for sale to the curious.'
(64) For examples of related Indian figures see Bayly, op. cir., p. 288.
(65) Lot 306, 24 September 2004. Other Ceylonese items in the Tennent collection included: a group of carved ebony figures of Ceylonese castes (lots 289-94); a carved coconut and metal cup and cover (lot 298); a tortoiseshell and gold mounted box in the Dutch style (lot 300); a tortoise shell and silver-mounted box in the form of a closed book (lot 301); and a Kandyan lac-decorated powder horn (lot 307).
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|Date:||Nov 1, 2006|
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