Thursday, January 29, 2015

Male and female clerics and Nevin's table 1870s

From two different private collections ...

Clerical dress
So many coincidences inform the existence of these photographs. This man and woman are both of East Asian appearance, and both wore clerical dress denoting religious affiliations when photographed in the 1870s. But were they known to each other? Both portraits were collected in Australia, despite one originating from India. And then there's the question about the table. The male portrait poses many questions, since it was printed in Madras by the Maselawmoney Brothers photographers, but located amongst other cartes-de-visite taken by Thomas J. Nevin held in the private collection of a Tasmanian family (the Liam Peters Collection). The female portrait was acquired through a Douglas Stewart Fine Books dealers' catalogue (Melbourne) for KLW NFC Imprint & Private Collection in 2013.

The most significant aspect of the male cleric's portrait, from the point of view of Thomas J. Nevin's studio decor of the 1870s, is the table at which the cleric is seated. Dozens of Nevin's sitters at the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town, were photographed next to this exact table in the early 1870s, including himself. Yet an identical table with the griffin-shaped legs appears in several extant portraits also taken by the Maselawmoney Bros. of Madras. The question arises, how and why did Nevin acquire an identical table, or is it the same table?

Left: Unidentified sitter wearing Indian head dress.
Photographed by Maselawmoney Brothers of Madras.
Courtesy of The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography
Right: A child (Western dress and appearance) seated next to the table with the griffin-shaped legs, decorated with a hat and pottery figure of  a King Charles Spaniel
Photographer: Maselawmoney Brothers Madras.
Source: eBay, 17 June 2014

The Maselawmoney Bros. portrait

Verso (above) of full length cdv on plain mount of a seated man (below) with a wispy beard, East Asian in appearance and dressed in Western clerical garb, dated to ca. 1873. The verso bears the studio name and stamp of Maselawmoney Brothers, Photographers, Madras,  and a handwritten note "Mrs Fitzpatrick 2 copies, 3/- to pay".  This handwritten inscription may have detailed the name of the person who originated the request that this man be photographed, or indeed it may have been added by the sitter himself, requesting copies for a publisher, a congregationalist, or a relative called Mrs Fitzpatrick, perhaps the name of the woman in Thomas Nevin's  photograph (below). Did they know each other?

The cleric is seated with his right arm resting on a table with the griffin-shaped legs which now appears to be a prominent and consistent motif in Nevin's studio decor for portraiture ca.1871-1875. On the table stands a full bunch of flowers. The cleric wears a biretta (three-cornered hat), a white collar, and full-length dark robe buttoned up the middle, over trousers. At the end of a long chain around his neck are two or more small objects. His eyes calmly focused at the camera at the point of capture. Scans courtesy of the  Liam Peters Collection 2010. All rights reserved.

The Thomas J. Nevin portrait
The young woman in this studio portrait by Thomas J. Nevin, taken ca. 1871-75, was also a cleric of East Asian appearance. She was photographed wearing a plain dark dress, and a Christian cross attached to a tight white neckband. This item is not a copy made of another Maselawmoney photograph taken in Madras and printed verso with Nevin's stamp, because Nevin OWNED THE SAME TABLE (or one identical) which is too much of a coincidence.This photograph is an original real-time capture with both Nevin and the woman in his studio at the same time. The unusual, delicate tinting of the verso studio stamp would signify that this sitter and her portrait were socially more significant to Nevin and his studio assistants than the average client.

Oval frame, head and torso to below waist cdv on plain mount: A young woman [unidentified] of East Asian appearance wearing no jewellery except for a Christian cross on a tight white neckband, in a dark plain dress with braid on dropped shoulders, velvet buttons, her hair in tight plaits pinned up to or from the part.
Studio portrait by Thomas Nevin ca, early 1870s.
Verso with blue studio stamp: "Ad Altiora" above Kangaroo emblem with red tint, T. Nevin late A. Bock encircled by belt printed with "City Photographic Establishment" and address below, "140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town". In italics below: "Further Copies can be obtained at any time".
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint KLW NFC Private Collection 2013 ARR.

Verso: Oval frame, head and torso to below waist cdv on plain mount: A young woman [unidentified]  of East Asian appearance wearing no jewellery except for a Christian cross on a tight white neckband, in a dark plain dress with braid on dropped shoulders, velvet buttons, her hair in tight plaits pinned up to or from the part.

Studio portrait by Thomas Nevin ca, early 1870s.
Verso with blue studio stamp: "Ad Altiora" above Kangaroo emblem with red tint, T. Nevin late A. Bock encircled by belt printed with "City Photographic Establishment" and address below, "140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town". In italics below: "Further Copies can be obtained at any time".
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint KLW NFC Private Collection 2013 ARR.

These two members of a religious order or movement may have visited the Nevin family at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley (Tas), where Thomas Nevin's father, John Nevin taught school at the schoolhouse, next to the family house, orchards and the Lady Franklin Museum. As visitors, and assuming they knew each other, they may have been in Tasmania on a campaign to raise relief for the Indian famine of 1870s or they may been involved with the social purity movements of temperance, sobriety and sexual health at a time when colonial governments brought in Contagious Diseases (CD) Acts:
In Australasia, Queensland passed a CD Act in 1868, followed by New Zealand in 1869, and ordinances were passed in Victoria in 1878 and Tasmania in 1879. They arose out of concern at the rising rate of venereal diseases (a particular problem in India and other places where there was a large concentration of military men deprived of normal domestic relationships), both on account of the loss of efficiency in the army and because it was feared VD would spread to the general community.
The CD Acts aimed to control the spread of VD by ‘compulsory medical inspection of common prostitutes and forcible detention in hospitals for the diseased.’ As there were so many variables in their execution, they were not always successful in containing the spread of disease.
Elisabeth Wilson‘Wandering stars’The impact of British evangelists in Australia, 1870s – 1900. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania October 2011. p. 307.

A photograph taken of Thomas J. Nevin , early 1870s, standing next to his table with the griffin-shaped legs on which rests his big box stereoscopic viewer.
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & The Shelverton Private Collection ARR

Further reading
The London Missionary Society Collection
National Library of Australia

Source: Gosling, Andrew, Religion and Rebellion in China: The London Missionary Society Collection, National Library of Australia News, vol. 8 (10), July 1998, pp. 3–6.

The National Library acquired the London Missionary Society collection of Chinese language sources in 1961, as part of its effort to develop strong research holdings on modern Asia. The Library's Liaison Officer in London at that time,F.W. Torrington, first sought advice from experts at London's School of Oriental and African Studies and the British Museum. On 4 May 1961 he wrote to the National Librarian, Harold White, in the following terms. I have to report that the London Missionary Society has offered to sell to the National Library a collection of Chinese works of about 600 volumes. The majority of these works were published in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and they cover a wide range of subjects-religion, history, literature, politics etc. Works on theology comprise about one fifth of the total ... Some of the historical and literary material is of considerable value and rarity. The most valuable items in the collection are the pamphlets relating to the T'ai P'ing rebellion ...
Following receipt of this letter, the Library consulted several eminent China scholars at the Australian National University. They supported acquisition of the collection, which was duly purchased and sent to Australia on board the Carnatic in January 1962.
As Torrington noted, the most outstanding part of the collection came from the T'aiping Rebellion, one of the greatest upheavals in modern Chinese history. The Taiping (,Great Peace') movement was founded byHung Hsiu-ch'uan, a visionary leader influenced by Liang A-fa and other Protestant missionaries. Hung preached a mixture of Christian egalitarianism and traditional Chinese utopian ideas, and established what was intended as an ideal realm known as the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace.
The movement's reformist actions initially enjoyed some support from missionaries and other Westerners, despite misgivings about its unorthodox form of Christianity. Hung and his followers-including the former charcoal-cutter Yang Hsiuch'ing (d.1856), who became Taiping commander-in-chief-captured Nanking in 1853, making it their 'Heavenly Capital'. For a while they looked as if they might overthrow the ruling Manchu Ch'ing dynasty. However, the Ch'ing largely retained the loyalty of the Confucian Chinese elite, who preferred Manchu government along traditional lines to Chinese rule by rebels with an ideology combining Western Christian and anti-Confucian elements. Finally, Chinese forces with some aid from foreign-officered mercenaries-crushed the rebellion with enormous loss of life.

The collection consists of 722 books, pamphlets, leaflets, manuscripts, newspapers and maps. The works are mostly written in Chinese, but there are also 37 titles in Japanese, three in Korean and two in Manchu. In addition, there are some bilingual works and one trilingual work (Chinese–Malay–English). The bulk of the works were published between the mid-nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, but there are a few published in the seventeenth century and a small number of works dating from the 1950s. They were published in Malacca, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Ningbo, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Hankou, Taibei, Edo (Tokyo), Kyoto, San Francisco and elsewhere.
The largest group comprises Christian works, including Biblical translations and commentaries, catechisms, hymns, prayers and theological writings. Early Protestant missionaries in China are strongly represented including Robert Morrison (1782–1834), William Milne (1785–1822), Walter Medhurst (1796–1857), Karl Gutzlaff (1803–1851), James Legge (1815–1897), Benjamin Hobson (1816–1873), Joseph Edkins (1823–1905), John Chalmers (1825–1899), W.A.P. Martin (1827–1916), John Nevius (1829–1893) and Griffith John (1831–1912). There are also writings by a few Catholic missionaries and about 20 Chinese Christians, such as Ho Tsin-sheen (1817–1871), who collaborated with Legge, and Xu Jiaxing, who collaborated with W. Hopkyn Rees. Apart from publications of the London Missionary Society itself, there are works published by the South China Religious Tract Society, the Presbyterian Mission Press, the British and Foreign Bible Society, the American Bible Society, the Lutheran Missions Literature Society and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
See also:  Christian Missions to the Chinese in Australia and New Zealand, 1855 - c1900

On board the "City of Hobart" 31st January 1872