Not currently on display at the V&A

Worship of the Devi at Kothi, near Chini

Painting
August 1860 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

William Simpson was born on 28 October 1823 in Glasgow. Following a seven-year apprenticeship with a specialist lithographic firm, he moved to London in February 1851 and found employment with Day and Sons. In 1859 the firm commissioned Simpson to visit India and make drawings for a book illustrating well-known places associated with the 1857-58 uprising. Thus began Simpson's long association with India, and the first of his four visits to the subcontinent over the next twenty-five years. During these journeys he made numerous rapid pencil drawings in sketchbooks, often heightened with colour washes. Many formed preparatory studies for his finished watercolours, most of which he worked up after returning to London. The plan was for Day and Son to select 250 of these finished watercolours to be lithographed as illustrations in the projected volume. While Simpson was away in India, however, Day and Son had been drifting into debt. In 1867, before it finally went into liquidation at the end of the year, he was made a company shareholder as part payment. But, as he expressed it, 'the great work on India, on which I bestowed so much time and labour, never came into existence'. Two years later, Simpson's collection of 250 watercolours was sold off as bankrupt stock: 'This was the big disaster of my life', as he ruefully remarked. This painting depicts devotees worshipping the goddess Devi at Kothi near Chini (Kalpa) in present-day Himachal Pradesh. It shows villagers outside a temple, some playing trumpets, horns and drums, others carrying a portable shrine (morha) with masks of Shiva. Simpson published an account of the ceremony in his article ‘Pujah in the Sutlej Valley’ in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol.XVI, part 1, 1884, pp.13-30, and it was still being celebrated in the 1970s.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Pencil and watercolour on tinted paper
Brief Description
Watercolour, worship of Devi, Kothi, Himalayas, William Simpson, 1860s
Dimensions
  • Height: 35cm
  • Width: 50.5cm
Gallery Label
WORSHIP OF THE MOTHER GODDESS AT KOTHI NEAR CHINI Watercolour on paper London William Simpson 1860-68 1155-1869 This watercolour was based on an original sketch made in August 1860 at the remote village of Kothi located at 10,000 feet above the Sutlej River in Himachal Pradesh. In a dramatic act of worship the mother goddess, represented by several brass masks, is carried on a palanquin around the temple. Villagers and musicians follow in a circular dance. (27/9/2013)
Summary
William Simpson was born on 28 October 1823 in Glasgow. Following a seven-year apprenticeship with a specialist lithographic firm, he moved to London in February 1851 and found employment with Day and Sons. In 1859 the firm commissioned Simpson to visit India and make drawings for a book illustrating well-known places associated with the 1857-58 uprising. Thus began Simpson's long association with India, and the first of his four visits to the subcontinent over the next twenty-five years. During these journeys he made numerous rapid pencil drawings in sketchbooks, often heightened with colour washes. Many formed preparatory studies for his finished watercolours, most of which he worked up after returning to London. The plan was for Day and Son to select 250 of these finished watercolours to be lithographed as illustrations in the projected volume. While Simpson was away in India, however, Day and Son had been drifting into debt. In 1867, before it finally went into liquidation at the end of the year, he was made a company shareholder as part payment. But, as he expressed it, 'the great work on India, on which I bestowed so much time and labour, never came into existence'. Two years later, Simpson's collection of 250 watercolours was sold off as bankrupt stock: 'This was the big disaster of my life', as he ruefully remarked. This painting depicts devotees worshipping the goddess Devi at Kothi near Chini (Kalpa) in present-day Himachal Pradesh. It shows villagers outside a temple, some playing trumpets, horns and drums, others carrying a portable shrine (morha) with masks of Shiva. Simpson published an account of the ceremony in his article ‘Pujah in the Sutlej Valley’ in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol.XVI, part 1, 1884, pp.13-30, and it was still being celebrated in the 1970s.
Bibliographic Reference
Rohatgi P. and Parlett G., assisted by Imray S. and Godrej P. Indian Life and Landscape by Western Artists: Paintings and Drawings from the Victoria and Albert Museum, 17th to the early 20th century. Published by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, in association with V&A, London, 2008. ISBN 81-901020-9-5.p. 300, pl. 11
Collection
Accession Number
1155-1869

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record createdJanuary 5, 2005
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