Lunatic asylum, near Colombo.
Photographer: Fiebig, Frederick
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph by Frederick Fiebig from an album of 70 handcoloured salt prints, of a lunatic asylum near Colombo, Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Frederick Fiebig was originally an artist and lithographer in Calcutta in the 1840s. He took up photography by 1849 and in the early 1850s produced nearly 500 calotypes of the architecture and scenery of Calcutta, Madras, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Cape Town. ‘Views in Sri Lanka’ comprised 70 prints which were purchased by the East India Company in 1856. Colombo, on the west coast, is the capital and commercial heart of Sri Lanka. Its artificial harbour, enclosed by breakwaters, is bounded on the south by a slight promontory. The town of Colombo was a significant port for Arab traders and a well-established settlement by the 8th century AD, but grew rapidly in the 16th century with the arrival of Portuguese and Dutch traders who initially came to exploit the island’s native cinnamon crop. The Portuguese established a military garrison here and the town developed within its walls and bastions. Towards the end of the 18th century British colonists arrived and set up the tea and coffee plantations which were to become the mainstay of the island’s economy.