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Oil painting - A State Procession in India
  • A State Procession in India
    Daniell, Thomas RA, born 1749 - died 1840
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A State Procession in India

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    early 19th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Daniell, Thomas RA, born 1749 - died 1840 (attributed to, painter (artist))
    Daniell, born 1769 - died 1837 (attributed to, painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Sir A. W. Franks KCB

  • Museum number:

    69-1880

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This painting is currently attributed to Thomas and his nephew, William, Daniell. It is possible that it draws upon several images made during the travels of the Indian continent by the Daniells, as well as the work of other artists. It was perhaps intended to be an evocation of an Indian scene rather than a record of a specific place or event and was probably the result of a private commission placed by an East India Company servant or military officer. The celebrated collector and British Museum curator, Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks KCB, gave the painting to the Museum in 1880. The Daniells were pioneering travellers in India and the East between 1785 and 1794 and made a faithful, pictorial record of the monuments they saw. Upon their return to England they used their stock of Indian sketches and watercolours to make aquatints. These were eventually used to produce what became a monumental and highly influential work known as Oriental Scenery. Using the principles of classical and picturesque landscape, this work effectively changed the way the West viewed the hitherto exotic and remote Indian continent.

Physical description

A view of an Indian gateway through which teems cavalrymen and foot-soldiers, and an elephant caparisoned in red and gold upon which sit two figures. To the far right, a kneeling figure on the ground in white pays homage.

Date

early 19th century (painted)

Artist/maker

Daniell, Thomas RA, born 1749 - died 1840 (attributed to, painter (artist))
Daniell, born 1769 - died 1837 (attributed to, painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

Height: 18.75 in estimate, Width: 22.5 in estimate, Height: 47.62 cm, Width: 57.15 cm

Object history note

Given by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks KCB in 1880

69-1880 was given to the museum by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks KCB along with 70-1880 which at the time was attributed to Thomas or William Daniell. By the mid- 20th century both paintings were in the museum’s ‘Indian Section’. In 1956 museum documentation shows that both paintings were officially transferred to the Paintings department (RP. 56/662, now MA/62/1/97). However, 70-1880 currently remains in the Asian Department, and this work is noted as by Charles D’Oyly (1781-1845) in ‘Asian Collection’, p.9 of The Public Catalogue Foundation: Oil Paintings in Public Ownership, The Victoria and Albert Museum.

[Re: 70-1880: This was acquired by the museum as a work by one of the Daniells, but is now attributed to Charles D’Oyly (see 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, Mumbai and London, 2008, p. 239]

Historical context note

A State Procession in India (as it has been known since its acquisition by the museum in 1880) is an oil painting attributed to Thomas or William Daniell. It is a view of a grand Mughal gateway through which teems a procession with a caparisoned elephant with a howdah on its back, cavalrymen and foot-soldiers. The celebrated collector and British Museum curator, Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks KCB, gave the painting to the Museum in 1880.

Thomas and his nephew, William Daniell, made pioneering travels in India and the East between 1785 and 1794 in order to make a faithful, pictorial record of the monuments they saw. Upon their return to England they used their stock of Indian sketches and watercolours to make aquatints. They issued, between 1795 and 1808, in six parts, what became a monumental and highly influential work known as Oriental Scenery. Using the principles of classical and picturesque landscape, this work effectively changed the way the West viewed the hitherto exotic and remote Indian continent.

The main motif of A State Procession in India – the central section of the gateway, with crenellations and towers – plausibly derives from a sketch, Western entrance to the travellers’ rest house or serai at Rajmahal, Bihar, 11 May 1790, by either Thomas or William Daniell (The Daniells in India, Smithsonian Institution, Washington 1962, cat.41). The sketch was used for a print published in The Oriental Annual, 1839, p.224 (see Exhibition cat. 41). It is of the ‘caravanserai’ or rest room for caravan travellers at Rajmahal, Bihar, India. It was made during a series of expeditions undertaken by the Daniells up and down the river Ganges in 1790 whilst resident with Samuel Davis, an amateur artist and friend. These trips were inspired by, and followed in the footsteps of, William Hodges who recorded monuments on his Indian travels in his work Select Views in India, published in 1786. The Daniells revisited many of the exact-same spots published in this work, with the intention of making even more faithful records of the same sites. The sketch by the Daniells was no doubt inspired by an aquatint by Hodges, A View of the Caravan Serai, at Raje Mahel, plate 4, in Hodges’ Select Views in India drawn on the Spot 1780-1783, published 1786 (see ‘William Hodges’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online). The original sketch by Hodges for this aquatint still survives (A View of the Gate of the Caravan Serai at Raje Mahel, Yale Center for British Art, B1978.43.1726). A profile view of the serai at Rajmahal was also painted in watercolour on paper by Samuel Davis, the Daniells’ host (Gateway to the Caravanserai at Rajmahal, c.1789, Victoria Memorial, India).

The gateway in the V&A oil painting is also reminiscent of the gateway to the Jam [Jami] Masjid at Rajmahal. This was a mosque constructed in the late-16th century and also previously sketched by William Hodges (see A View of a Mosque, at Rajemahel, 1787, British Library, London). Rajmahal was a small town – now in ruins - situated in a strategic position on the west bank of the Ganges and had twice been capital of Bengal in the late 16th/early 17th centuries. Its mosques, tombs and ruins became a popular subject for early 19th-century artists, no doubt inspired by Hodges and the Daniells (see for example Gateway at Rajemahl. Augt 1820, by Sir Charles D’Oyly, and Gateway to the Jam Masjid at Rajmahal, by Sita Ram, 1820, both in the British Library).

The gateway in the V&A oil painting, with its crenellations and ‘chhatris’ (or cupolas), is also reminiscent of the ‘Buland Darwaza’ at Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory), near Agra. The Daniells visited Buland Darwaza (once capital of the Mughal Empire) on their first tour in North India in 1789. There is a sketch of Fatehpur Sikri by Thomas Daniell (British Library) and an oil painting Quadrangle of the Jami Masjid, Fatehpur Sikri, by William Daniell, dated 1833 (British Library).

The various motifs in the oil painting of an elephant with a ‘howdah’ on its back, cavalrymen, foot-soldiers, palm trees and men in obeisance are to be found in several works by the Daniells. They are very similar to the motifs in the foreground of a later oil by William Daniell: The Taj Mahal, Agra, 1829 (Victoria Memorial, India, R.2179).

It cannot be said definitively whether the V&A’s A State Procession shows any of these three gateways. It is possible that it is some form of hybrid image composed from various sources gathered during the travels of the Daniells, and perhaps the work of other artists. It was perhaps intended to be an evocation of an Indian scene rather than a record of a specific place or event. Although the Daniells were known for their topographical accuracy, Thomas Daniell, in particular, used artistic license in the interests of composition and the same approach may have been applied to the V&A oil painting.

The Daniells produced 355 oil paintings for public exhibition (at the Royal Academy of Art, British Institution and Calcutta Lottery of 1792 and Madras Lottery of 1793). It is clear from an examination of the titles of those paintings exhibited, that A State Procession in India cannot be connected with any of these exhibitions and was probably made for a private patron. Both Thomas and William Daniell painted many oils for private patrons – presumably for East India Company servants and military officers who wanted a record of their service or a particular action – and were still using the visual sources gathered on their travels in the 18th century as late as 1837.

Descriptive line

Oil Painting, 'A State Procession in India', attributed to Thomas Daniell RA or William Daniell RA, early 19th century

Materials

Canvas; Oil paint

Techniques

Oil painting

Categories

Paintings

Collection code

PDP

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