Suttee Ghat Cawnpore

John Murray (British, Blackhouse, Aberdeenshire, Scotland 1809–1898 Sheringham, Norfolk county, England)

Paper negative
Image: 38 x 48 cm (14 15/16 x 18 7/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Cynthia Hazen Polsky Gift, 2005
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This photograph memorializes the site of the most shocking event of the Indian Mutiny. Choosing the safety of civilians over honor in battle, a besieged English detachment at Cawnpore (Kanpur) surrendered to rebels on June 26, 1857, on the promise that they and the European families who had taken refuge in their barracks would be granted safe passage. Instead, soldiers and civilians alike were fired upon as they boarded boats at this very spot, and the two hundred women and children who survived were led back to Cawnpore, slaughtered, dismembered, and thrown down a well. These horrific events, in turn, led to gratuitously brutal acts of retribution by the British. In Murray's bleak, harshly backlit photograph, there is something ineffably sad about the two native figures whose solitude no longer conveys human scale but rather the physical and emotional distance that had come to separate the Indians and the British.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed in black ink, verso BL: "SUTTEE GHAT // CAWNPORE JM(?)"; watermark, recto TL to TR (in reverse twice): "R TURNER PATENT TALBOTYPE"

  • Provenance

    Descendant of Dr. John Murray; (sold, Sotheby's London, Lot 51, November 6, 1987); Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York