A Toda Man

Albert Thomas Watson Pennc. 1860

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Photography was used as a tool in ethnological research since the 1850s, supplanting drawings and prints to more objectively measure physical features. Albert T. W. Penn’s portraits show a certain intimacy and rapport with his subjects. The Toda man is clearly posed, yet Penn reveals strength of character in his bare chest and distant gaze. This portrait was reproduced in Edgar Thurston’s Castes and Tribes of Southern India (1909) to substantiate certain racial theories. The text refers to the “profuse development of hair” and shoulder scar as characteristic of Toda men, who were said to burn themselves to fight fatigue.

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  • Title: A Toda Man
  • Creator: Albert Thomas Watson Penn
  • Date: c. 1860
  • Physical Dimensions: w21.7 x h27 cm (sheet)
  • Type: Photographs
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Albumen silver print from glass negative
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by Carey C. Shuart

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