European & American Art
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Francis CHIT [Khun Sunthonsathitlak]

Bangkok, Thailand 1830 – 1891

Prince Vajirunhis was escorted to the Grand Palace for his investiture as crown prince. Bangkok 14 January 1886 1886 Place made: Bangkok, Thailand
Materials & Technique: photographs, albumen prints, albumen silver photograph

Primary Insc: photographer's oval blindstamp 'F. CHIT AND SONS BANGKOK SIAM' on mount
Secondary Insc: titled in Russian and dated on mount
Dimensions: image 21.1 h x 27.2 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2006
Accession No: NGA 2006.664
  • Francis Chit is the first notable Thai photographer. He was raised as a Christian and learned daguerreotype photography around 1847 from the French bishop in Bangkok. A decade later he began using the collodion, or wet-plate, process where photographic negatives are produced on ordinary glass plates that can be printed numerous times. Chit excelled in the new medium, opening a studio in Bangkok in 1863.

    Chit was appointed court photographer firstly to Mongkut, King Rama IV, and honoured with the title Khun Sunlhornsathitsalak (officer for fine likeness) by his son Chulalongkorn, King Rama V, in 1866. Like his father, King Chulalongkorn modernised the court and astutely used photography as a diplomatic gift.

    Chit supplied views to travellers as well as to the King and members of the royal family for presentation to foreign visitors, such as the Tsarevich Nicholas, Crown Prince of Russia, who toured Asia and stopped at Bangkok in 1891. This print – showing Prince Vajirunhis, the son of King Chulalongkorn, being invested as Crown Prince in 1886—was obtained by a member of the Russian entourage.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008