Polynesian portrait

Portrait of two Polynesian women

These two women have no names and we don’t know when their photograph was taken, or exactly where. But it doesn’t really matter as their serenity and dignity shines down through the years.

The photograph is in an album featuring 19th century Polynesian scenes and people which forms part of the Alexander Thoms collection. As well as knowing nothing about the women, we know very little about Thoms.

Alexander was a member of the Thoms of Clepington family and as a young man went to Bengal, India, where he remained engaged in estate and plantation business for about thirty years. In 1884 he returned to Scotland, living in St Andrews until his death in 1925 aged 89 years.

The collection also contains another photograph album featuring pictures of geological formations and bird colonies, nests and eggs from the Hebrides and Shetland. Thoms was an amateur mineralogist, and he presented a valuable collection of stones and minerals to University College, Dundee.

Thoms’s Polynesian album was possibly a souvenir of a trip from Bengal to the Islands. It contains photographs of ancient and modern buildings, of scenery and people and of them all, these two women were likely to have been remembered by Thoms.


Ref: MS 180

Images from the collections featuring WW1 material