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Indian Company Paintings

created by janes

For years I had no idea what these 'transparencies' as I called them were. But apparently they were never intended to be used with a light behind them.

The style of these paintings on mica is European. 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.

The description and dating of these has been done by Kate Hartland-Westwood and Dan Allen of the Victoria Military Society. Without their input the images would still be a mystery to me. There follows a summary of Dan's description but just a word about the contribution of Kate and Dan. Kate has a blog called about Black Country history but she has extensive knowledge on many historical subjects. She gives freely but is also a paid researcher on family and local history. Dan Allen has a website called . The society was founded in 1974 and its aims, quoting from the website, are as follows

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.

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.

the V&A has 400 company paintings on mica



Latest Indian Company Paintings history added:

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