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Suburb of Colombo (Pettah).

Suburb of Colombo (Pettah).

Photographer: Fiebig, Frederick

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1852

Shelfmark: Photo 249/(21)

Item number: 24921

Genre: Photograph

Photograph by Frederick Fiebig from an album of 70 handcoloured salt prints, of the quarter called the Pettah at Colombo in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Fiebig, of German origin, was active in Calcutta as an artist and lithographer in the 1840s. Little is known about his life, but turning to photography in the late 1840s he produced hundreds of photographs by the calotype process, frequently handcolouring them. His photographs of Ceylon, probably taken in 1852, are considered the earliest surviving photographic record of the island. Colombo, the capital and chief port of Sri Lanka, located on its west coast, evolved during the four and a half centuries of European colonial expansion under the Portuguese (1505-1656), the Dutch (1656-1796) and the British (1796-1948). It was transformed into a modern metropolis under British rule. The Pettah district is part of the old town of Colombo which was adjacent to the Fort. Its name was derived from the Tamil for 'outside the fort'. Today the Pettah is Colombo's leading bazaar district with its narrow cobbled streets lined with shops. Fiebig's image illustrates the Main Street of the Pettah in the middle of the 19th century with its tile-roofed buildings supported on columns of brick or wood. With its colourful mix of races and trades, the Pettah was a popular subject for 19th century photographers.

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