A Corfiote, Felice Beato, visited India during the Great Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, possibly by the commission of the War Office in London. In Delhi, Cawnpore, Lucknow and other mutiny sites, he took many photos with a large box camera which needed long exposures. In Lucknow, he took 60 photographs of the city, where the defending British garrison was besieged by the sepoys only months before.
The above picture showed the interior of the Secundra Bagh after 2,000 rebels are slaughtered by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment, after the first attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November 1857. The British reaction to the mutiny became especially fierce after the women and children were mercilessly gunned down by the sepoys in Cawnpore. The British dead were buried where the Indian corpses were left to rot.
Lucknow was evacuated and was not recaptured until March 1858 and it was shortly afterwards that Beato probably took this photograph. As one contemporary commentator described it: “A few of their [rebel] bones and skulls are to be seen in front of the picture, but when I saw them every one was being regularly buried, so I presume the dogs dug them up.” A British officer, Sir George Campbell, noted in his memoirs Beato’s presence in Lucknow and stated that he probably had the bones uncovered to be photographed. However, William Howard Russell of The Times recorded seeing many skeletons still lying around in April 1858.