Tropical Arcadia
Early Photography in Ceylon

05.11.2009 to 30.05.2010

The exhibition presents a selection of rare vintage prints from the end of the 19th century that document the high quality of colonial-era photography in British Ceylon. On display are exquisite examples of picturesque landscape photographs, plant portraits and still lifes of fruits by renowned photographers.

Ceylon, famed for its arcadian beauty and luscious flora, was the epitome of a tropical paradise well before the rise and spread of photography as a dominant medium. This is evident from various travel reports, such as those by Prince Waldemar of Prussia, who visited the island in 1844. According to Alexander von Humboldt in his preface to the prince's travel report, few places in 'East India' aroused the 'sense of yearning for vast and distant lands' as strongly as this island.

Added to this, lithographs of paintings of arcadian landscapes, used to adorn the lavish volumes by Prince Waldemar, also generated an interest to document through photographs the natural beauty and unique botanical features of the island, and as a result the exhibition covers this aspect of the island's past too.