Portrait of two merchants - 2016.66.8.76_1


Portrait of two merchants

Maker: Clement Williams (28 December 1833-26 June 1879)
Medium:collodion or gelatin silver printing out paper
Geography: Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma)
Date: 1861-1863 (printed 1885-1910)
9.7 × 14.3 cm
Object number: 2016.66.8.76
Credit Line: Gift of David Strachey
Not on view

This images shows two men posing with fans. These men are Panthay merchants from Western Yunnan province in China. It seceded from China after the Panthay Rebellion, which started in 1857 and was led by Muslim forces. Technically, trade between Burma and Western Yunnan was forbidden by the government, but it continued nevertheless. These men may be members of the diasporic community that settled in Burma as the Panthay lost much of their foothold in China in 1872. This photograph appears in an album of photographs, official documents, and letters. This photograph is either a collodion silver print or a gelatin silver print on a printing out paper. It is impossible to tell the difference between the two processes. It was likely printed from a collodion glass plate negative. This photograph shares a page with 2016.66.8.75, and the negative for this object is number N.11207.GOS at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge.

Dr. Clement Williams (28 December 1833 – 26 June 1879) arrived in Burma in 1858 as an assistant surgeon with the 68th Light Infantry. After mastering the Burmese language, he settled in Mandalay by mid-1861 and gained the confidence of King Mindon. In 1863, he was appointed Britain’s first political agent in Upper Burma. That same year he led an expedition up the Irrawaddy River to Bhamo, later publishing an account of his travels, Through Burma to Western China. After quitting the army in 1865, he worked briefly for the newly established Irrawaddy Flotilla Company before going into business for himself as a buying agent for the king. In 1879, en route between Burma to England, Williams died of typhoid outside Florence. Like many doctors familiar with working with chemicals. Clement Williams was an early amateur photographer, as recounted in his book. Until 2017, however, there were no images positively attributed to him. Thanks to gifts from his nephew, Louis Allan Goss (1846-1933), and Goss’s heirs, they now are in the collections of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) in Cambridge, UK, and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.

Southeast Asia
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