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Chang the Chinese giant in European dress with Chinese boy and three European men, one of whom is his manager
, c. 1871

by Archibald McDonald

carte de visite photograph (support: 10.3 cm x 6.1 cm, image: 9.2 cm x 5.9 cm)

More images of this artwork

Portraits had a role to play not just in the marketing but in the performances of those in the live exhibit profession, with accounts of Chang’s receptions indicating that the issuing of cartes de visite was part of the whole experience. In Chang’s case, and in keeping with the civility characterising his ‘levees’, the photographs may have been intended to function equally as a memento of having been in his ‘Celestial presence’ and as a miniature conversation piece or quirky, curious souvenir. Among the St George’s Hall tenants when Chang was appearing there in early 1871 was Archibald McDonald (1831–1873), a Canadian-born photographer who had first come to Australia in the late 1840s, working in Melbourne, Geelong, Tasmania and then Melbourne again, and establishing his gallery and studio in St. George’s Hall around 1864. McDonald was consequently among the various photographers to produce cartes of Chang and his entourage. It seems to have been standard to photograph him in either Chinese or English mode; and alongside those of average or dramatically different proportions so as to throw his own into greater relief. Both methods are in evidence in two photographs of Chang bearing McDonald’s studio stamp: one shows Chang and Kin Foo in traditional robes alongside his manager, Edward Partlett – seated atop a pedestal; and the second sees Chang in European clothes, seated, and flanked by four others including a Chinese boy. In April 1871 the Ballarat photographer William Bardwell created a number of cartes of Chang, one of which depicted him with Partlett tucked comfortably underneath his arm.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010
Accession number: 2010.31