A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4)
Lot 245
A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4)
Sold for US$ 22,500 inc. premium
Auction Details
A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4) A Group of Photographs of the Younghusband Expedition into Tibet (1903-4) A Group of Photographs of the Younghusband Expedition into Tibet (1903-4) A Group of Photographs of the Younghusband Expedition into Tibet (1903-4)
Lot Details
A group of photographs from the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa (1903-4)
Comprising 70 photographs, many of them with manuscript annotations on the reverse, divided into groups of: 1) 22 photogravures, approx 190 x 305mm, taken by John Claude White, including a linen bound folding panorama with stamp "M. D. Parr, Doone House" on the interior of a full morocco cover, 2) 36 contact prints from roll film placed in a panoramic camera onto silver gelatin, of which 6 have applied hand coloring oils, approx 80 x 140 mm, 3) 12 contact prints from roll film onto silver gelatin, approx 85 x 85 mm; among the total group are approx 10 prints of duplicate subjects with varying impressions. Accompanied by a true copy of a letter dated 1907 from the Kashmir Residency Office to Sir Francis Younghusband and similarly dated manuscript letter signed by Younghusband addressed to "My dear Parr" regarding the latter's nomination for the Tibet Medal, as well as photocopied excerpts of letters written by Parr to his wife whilst on the expedition.

Footnotes

  • A Tibetan almanac prophesized that the year beginning February 1904 would see "a great coming of robbers, quarrelling and fighting, full of many enemies..." (see Allen, Dual in the Snows, London, 2004, p. 51). On 12 December 1903, the Younghusband Expedition advanced from the Tibetan frontier, an action which soon escalated into a controversial moment in colonial history between the British and the Tibetans. The former was led by the ambitious and celebrated Colonel Francis Younghusband (1863-1942), while the latter consisted mainly of peasants coerced into fighting by threats to their families and homes by Tibetan lamas who were ill-equipped to serve as military commanders.

    Fueled by false speculation, the expedition aimed, in conversation with the Chinese, to preserve Tibet as a buffer zone between Russia and British India. Although evidence of an alliance between Tibet and Russia remained unsubstantiated, Younghusband advanced on Lhasa, frustrated that his wish to parle with the Dalai Lama and Tibet's senior government officials was persistently denied. By the time he reached Lhasa, and after a number of battles, the then intimidated Tibetan government promptly signed the Lhasa Convention in 1904, a deal which effectively turned the country into a British protectorate. Two years later, a separate treaty with China saw Britain agree not to annex Tibet in exchange for a covenant from the Chinese to prevent anyone else from doing so.

    Major William Randall McDonnell Parr (1865-1938), to whom these photographs and excerpts belonged, was brought on board as Chinese Joint Commissioner to receive Younghusband at the frontier post of Yatung and facilitate diplomatic negotiations with Tibetan and Chinese ambassadors. Parr had spent the majority of 16 years stationed in China, where he served during the Yangtze Riots in 1891 and the China-Japan war in 1894. Employed by the Chinese government as Customs Commissioner, Parr was an invaluable resource to the expedition, given his extensive knowledge of Chinese language, customs, and bureaucracy. The fact that he was served under Chinese authorities at the time made him ineligible for the Tibet Medal as described in the accompanying letter and manuscript sent by Younghusband, despite the "hard & risky time".

    At times intimate, at times recording significant locations or moments, Parr's photographs offer snapshots of the British advance across Tibet. Among them are several high quality photogravures taken by the expedition's Joint Commissioner Jean Claude White, produced from contact prints affording no loss of detail before the advent of enlarging technologies. The majority show views of Khamba jong (fort), where Parr's role was essential during five months of diplomatic negotiations which eventually collapsed with the mission advancing onto Gyantse (ibid., p. 31).

    In addition to White's official photographs, Parr's own amateur prints offer informal portrayals of officers and the mission's cosmopolitan personnel, of Chinese officials, and of Tibetan people and landscapes as he documented the expedition's progress. The photographs, which most likely accompanied the many good-humored letters he sent to his wife, seem to echo certain excerpts. One image capturing a group of Tibetan monks in fearful poses mirrors his observation that after arriving at Gyanste "the natives seem cowed". Another mentioning a "palaver with the Chinese and Tibetan officials" seems to reflect the expressions of three Chinese officials lining a doorway, one of whom is identified on the reverse as General Ma, a representative of the Chinese Amban included in the negotiations. The present lot provides a remarkable first-hand account of this historic collision of powers.

    Provenance:
    From the collection of Major William Randall McDonnell Parr
    Thence by descent
Activities
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