Merchants Offices, Madras
Photographer: Fiebig, Frederick
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of merchants’ offices at Madras, taken by Frederick Fiebig in c.1851. Madras lies on the Bay of Bengal and was founded in 1639 by the British East India Company. It was the first important English settlement in India and remained the centre of English influence in the East until the rise of Calcutta in the late 18th century. The city was one of India’s major ports and mercantile centres, based around the harbour and George Town, its commercial heart. It has a rich architectural legacy of colonial buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries and the classical arcaded style of the office shown in this view is similar to buildings on the harbour front. Little seems to be known about Frederick Fiebig. He was probably born in Germany and became a lithographer (and possibly was also a piano teacher) in Calcutta, publishing a number of prints in the 1840s. In the late 1840s Fiebig turned to photography using the calotype process, producing prints that were often hand-coloured. His photographs includes several hundred views of Calcutta in the early 1850s, one of the earliest detailed studies of a city, a large hand coloured collection of which were bought by the East India Company in 1856, their first major acquisition of photographs. Among the roughly 500 pictures were views of Calcutta, Madras, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Cape Town.