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Plantain trees, [Madras]

Plantain trees, [Madras]

Photographer: Fiebig, Frederick

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1851

Shelfmark: Photo 248/(43)

Item number: 24843

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of plantain trees at Madras, taken by Frederick Fiebig in c.1851. The plantain (Musa Paradisiaca) or banana tree bears hanging clusters of fruit and is found in the tropics and subtropics. Although Madras grew very quickly into a major city from its foundation in the 17th century, with the exception of the very developed urban parts such as George Town it was composed of a collection of villages spread out over a wide area. In the 19th century, rice fields could be found within its limits along with this grove of plantains. 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.

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