Symbolic Perspectives : Views of Fort Canning in the 19th century

Iskander Mydin


From the first to middle decades of the 19th century, European artists attempted to depict the landscape of the Singapore entrepot which was established in 1819. These depictions, or more appropriately, representations, have been acquired for museum collections such as that of the National Museum of Singapore. There has been very little attempt at studying these representations. More often than not, these representations are taken at face value as visual records. Fort Canning which was of historical and symbolic significance in the pre-colonial Malay history of the island acquired a similar significance in 1819 and afterwards when it became the seat of the British Governors of Singapore, overlooking the Singapore entrepot. As such, visual representations of Fort Canning by European artists became popular. Fort Canning was the focal point for viewing the entrepot, either landwards or seawards. This article tries to look at symbolic perspectives underlying these artistic representations which could be used to look at other historical prints and paintings in the collection.

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