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1830-1840, INDIA
1830-1840, India
1830-1840, INDIA
1830-1840, INDIA
1830-1840, India
1830-1840, India

Aug 18, 2013
Indian Art

Amongst a bundle of photographs and albums from my late grandfather, Fred Goodwill, was a rather tatty envelope which was addressed to a Rev. Perry in Redditch. Fred Goodwill was also a Methodist Minister in Redditch, in the 1930s I believe. I assume therefore that Fred was given them because he had spent a long time in India and was also very interested in Indian history. When I looked inside the envelope what I saw was about ten paintings on, what I thought was cellulose. It was certainly a very brittle material and there was no doubt that this was Indian art.When I uploaded them first, several years ago, I asked for help on identifying what they were and now I have the answer, thanks to the contributiion of three people. Jones Ebinesan was the first person to make suggestions as to the nature of these paintings. He correctly identified that they were European in style and suggested that they were painted for the Europeans to help them understand the European way of life. It was to be a long while after that that Kate Hartland Westwood (KH) got her teeth into the problem and solved the mystery.

Firstly, the paintings are on mica and this is why they are so brittle and have been damaged. They are not, as I thought, designed to be used with a magic lantern and projected but viewed as they are. The Europeans found it hard to relate to the Indian style of painting and so taught the Indians to paint in a European style. Many of these European patrons worked for companies such as The East Indian Company hence the name 'Company Paintings.' In fact there were Indian patrons as well. The style was, as the V&A records, 'documentary rather than imaginative,' covering scenes from everyday life.

In the eighteenth century European traders went to India, particularly with the East India Company and took their families with them. Finding it hard to relate to the Indian style of art and wanting to share images of their life with those at home, they commissioned paintings in the European style. See Often they were watercolours, sometimes, as this example shows, they were painted in gouache.

This is Dan Allen's description of the paintings which are at 

I would say they are scenes of camp life in India in the 1830s-1840s. The tent in one of the pictures is clearly European. An Indian tent (or pavilion) would have been much more elaborate.

The groom and the man cleaning the boots are in livery rather than regimental uniform. They could be regimental servants or the officer's own.

As to date. The figure of the soldier by the tent is a guide. Up until 1825 Native soldiers (sepoys) in the east India Company's armies wore shorts (officially called "drawers," - usually white with a blue dog-tooth pattern around the bottom of the legs. In 1825 long trousers were introduced, white in summer and long blue in winter. So the picture is post 1825 and set in the winter months. However the cap that the soldier is wearing, generally called a "bell-topped shako") was not introduced to sepoy regiments until the 1830s and lasted up until the Indian mutiny of 1857. It is possible that the shako was only adopted in Northern India. The Madras Army (Southern India and Burma) and the Bombay Army (Western India and Aden) never adopted it.

The pictures are probably, therefore, of camp life in Northern India in the 1830s/1840s drawn by a native artist.

So there we have it, a fascinating insight into an aspect of Indian art which I, for one, had never heard of.

 A word about the credentials of the puzzle solvers:

Jones (ejonesk65) was born and grew up in India and now lives in Australia

Kate (Katehw) lives in the the Midlands in England and is a paid researcher and family history teacher. She has extensive knowledge on a wide range of topics, both family and local history. Her blog is at

Dan Allen runs the website which covers Victorian military history. I quote from the website.  The society is principally concerned with the forces of the British Empire and its adversaries, but does not exclude other armies. Research is encouraged and the results of this, together with items of interest are published in our quarterly journal, Soldiers of the Queen. In addition, matters of immediate interest are circulated in our newsletter, the Soldier's Small Book.




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