|Born: Harriet Christina Earle |
Other: Harriet Earle
Other: Harriet Tytler
Joint: Robert & Harriet Tytler
|Dates: ||1828 - 1907|
In 1848 Harriet Earle became the second wife of Robert Tytler, a major for the East India Company. Although British and educated in London, she was born and died in India. As a young woman she displayed unusual courage and pluck, traits that were to serve her well during the Great Mutiny in Delhi in 1857. Among the few to escape the uprising, she was the only British woman present during the subsequent siege and gave birth to her third child under a donkey cart. Her husband had been taught the rudiments of photography by Felice Beato and John Murray. It had always seemed surprising that he was able to produce at least five hundred waxed-paper negatives after the siege, even though he was on leave part of the time. In the 1980s, quantities of these emerged at auction, many bearing the monogram “H.C.T.” In fact, in the Englishman Tytler is described as crediting his wife with being “a most successful photographer.” Hearing a rumor that part or all of the city was to be knocked down, Harriet wrote in her memoirs that she decided to preserve “what the home of the Emperors of Delhi was like,” even though she had never painted a landscape in her life. She arranged a six-foot-high circle of paper six feet in diameter supported by bamboo rods, and set up threads within to insure correct perspective. A departing artist gave her a six-by-eighteen-foot canvas and paints, and thus she begun her cyclorama. She hoped to sell it to Barnum, but a long delay in getting home made the mutiny old news. An audience with the queen to show it and the couple’s photographs was frustrated by Harriet’s ill health. She did not complete the cyclorama until after her husband’s death in 1872. Always loyal to India, she then founded an orphanage, which carried on after her death as an industrial school. Her contributions to photography have yet to be fully recognized. In 1986 a mammoth paper negative was auctioned and credited on the basis of a later inscription to “Stanley Tytler.” This in fact was Stanley Delhi-force Tytler, her son born during the siege.
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007)
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission.
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012.
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