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Stunning photos of 19th century India are being auctioned

  • Maria Thomas
By Maria Thomas

Writer at Quartz India

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

A spectacular collection of vintage photographs of India is going on sale in an online auction today (Oct. 10).

Hosted by StoryLTD, a platform run by Indian auction house Saffronart, the auction features images, albums, and photo books from some of the very first photographers and photo studios in the country, including the legendary Lala Deen Dayal and Bourne and Shepherd. The subjects are often lavishly dressed maharajas and busy street scenes, besides a number of iconic monuments, from the Taj Mahal in Agra to Hyderabad’s Charminar.

With 103 lots dating from 1840, when photography was first practised in India, right up to the country’s independence in 1947, these images and albums are a historic collection that offers a fascinating view of what the region was like in the 19th century and beyond. Of course, all this doesn’t come cheap—the estimates for individual images and albums range from Rs20,000 ($270) for a photo book of India’s people and places, published in 1896, to as much as Rs7.5 lakh for an album of royal portraits of various maharajas, taken by Vernon & Co, one of Bombay’s (now Mumbai) iconic 19th century photo studios.

For those of us without that much cash to spare, here’s a selection of the photos:

Image courtesy of StoryLTD
Large group of ruling princes and chiefs, Delhi, November 1919, A R Dutt. Estimate: Rs25,000-Rs30,000.
Image courtesy of StoryLTD
HH The Rana Sahib of Porbandar, from Lala Deen Dayal’s princely rulers, a set of 81 photographs. Estimate: Rs5 lakh-Rs7 lakh.
Image courtesy of StoryLTD
The Nawab of Loharu from a series of Maharaja portraits by Bourne and Shepherd, 1903. Estimate: Rs60,000-Rs70,000.
Image courtesy of StoryLTD
Young Indian prince in full regalia, Silver gelatin print on paper, from a set of five photos of Indian Maharajahs, Western India, by various photographers. Estimate: Rs75,000-Rs1 lakh.
Image courtesy of StoryLTD
Bhendi Bazaar, Bombay by Bourne and Shepherd, Albumen print, c. 1890s, 9.25 x 7 inches. From a collection titled Views of Bombay, 1870s – 1900s.
Image courtesy of StoryLTD
Victoria Terminus, Bombay, Albumen print, c. 1890s, 9.25 x 7.25 inches. From a collection titled Views of Bombay, 1870s-1900s.
Image courtesy of StoryLTD
The Taj Mahal by Lala Deen Dayal, from the collection Indian Monuments by Lala Deen Dayal (set of 7), circa 1880s. Estimate: Rs80,000-Rs1 lakh.
Image courtesy of StoryLTD
General view of Charminar by Lala Deen Dayal, silver albumen print, c. 1880s. From the collection Early Views of Hyderabad. Estimate: Rs1.5 lakh-Rs2 lakh.
Image courtesy of StoryLTD
Interior of Moti Masjid at Agra Fort from the collection Views of Agra, 1860s to 90s by various photographers.

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