The Queen's Bath, in the garden of the Palace, [Mandalay]
Photographer: Hooper, Willoughby Wallace (1837-1912)
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of the Queen’s Bath in the Royal Palace at Mandalay, Burma (Myanmar) taken by Willoughby Wallace Hooper in 1885. The photograph is from a series documenting the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-86) made by Hooper while serving as Provost Marshal with the British army. The Burma Expeditionary Force entered Mandalay, the Burmese royal capital, on 28 November 1885, taking prisoner the last king of Burma, Thibaw (reigned 1878-1885), and beginning an occupation of the city. The war culminated in the annexation by the British of Upper Burma on 1 January 1886 and the exile of the king and his queen Supayalat to India. Queen Supayalat’s baths were situated in the gardens to the south of the royal palace within the square citadel enclosing it. A caption by Hooper accompanying the photograph describes them: “This is a quadrangular building about 50 yards long by 30 broad, in the centre of which is the pool of water used by the Queen and her Maids of Honour as a bathing-place in the warm weather. A kind of covered colonade runs all round it, in each recess of which is a handsome couch, overlaid with gold and inlaid with pieces of looking-glass, on which the ladies reclined after their bath. At the far end, as seen in the photograph, is a wooden “Zyat” or pavilion, richly gilded and inlaid with brilliant coloured stones and glasses. There is also a fountain in the centre of the water.” Hooper was a dedicated amateur photographer and his photographs of the war in Burma are considered “one of the most accomplished and comprehensive records of a nineteenth century military campaign”. It was published in 1887 as ‘Burmah: a series of one hundred photographs illustrating incidents connected with the British Expeditionary Force to that country, from the embarkation at Madras, 1st Nov, 1885, to the capture of King Theebaw, with many views of Mandalay and surrounding country, native life and industries’. There were two editions, one with albumen prints, one with autotypes, and a set of lantern slides was issued. The series is also notable for the political scandal which arose following allegations by a journalist that Hooper had acted sadistically in the process of photographing the execution by firing squad of Burmese rebels. The subsequent court of inquiry concluded that he had behaved in a “callous and indecorous” way and the affair raised issues of the ethical role of the photographer in documenting human suffering and the conduct of the British military during a colonial war.