Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Suraj Uddin Mending Chain Mail, Jaipur, 1926

Photography Studio:
possibly by Gobindram and Oodeyram (Indian, Jaipur, active late 19th–mid-20th century)
Date:
1926
Geography:
Jaipur
Culture:
Indian, Jaipur
Medium:
Probably gelatin silver print on mat board
Dimensions:
5 7/8 x 7 7/8 in. (15 x 20 cm); mat: 10 x 12 in. (25.4 x 30.5 cm)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Purchase, 1926
Accession Number:
2015.491
Not on view
This photograph and 2015.492 were taken for Dr. Bashford Dean (first curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Department of Arms and Armor) in response to his request for evidence of any living craftsmen in India who were still making mail armor in the traditional way. A survey of British Residents across India was undertaken on Dean's behalf by Major R. B. Seymour Sewell, Director of the Zoological Survey of India, Indian Museum, Calcutta. The result was that only a single artisan was found, identified as Suraj Uddin in correspondence between Sewell and Dean. Sewell received these photographs from the Resident at Jaipur and mailed them to Dean from Calcutta with a letter dated November 23, 1926. Although sought by Dean for research purposes only, these photographs can be recognized now for their rarity and importance on several counts: they are remarkably well documented Indian examples of the petit métier genre of recording local craft traditions, which began in Europe in the late Middle Ages through the medium of prints and continued via photography into the 1950s; it is extremely unusual, possibly unique, that the name of the craftsman is recorded; as studio photographs made in Jaipur in the 1920s, these photographs may be attributable to Gobindram and Oodeyram, the leading photographers in Jaipur from the 1880s and still active as late as the 1970s; as Dean originally intended, the photographs are invaluable for the tools, materials and the activity that they document.

Wearing a turban and white jacket, the craftsman Suraj Uddin sits on the floor in front of a low cloth covered table on which his tools, materials, and a large piece of mail armor are carefully laid out. He holds tools in both hands and is seen in the process of repairing an area of the mail. Behind him to the viewers left there are a wooden box and more mail and tools, and to the right a box or chest covered by another mail garment. All this is arranged in front of a painted studio backdrop.
Major Robert Beresford Seymour Sewell, Director of the Zoological Survey of India, Indian Museum, Calcutta (until November 23, 1926; sold to Bashford Dean for MMA).
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