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The Golden Temple at Amritsar

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Amritsar (made)

  • Date:

    probably 02/1854 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Carpenter, William, born 1818 - died 1899 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    watercolour on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

William Carpenter was the eldest son of the distinguished portrait painter Margaret Sarah Carpenter and of William Hookham Carpenter, who became Keeper of the Prints and Drawings Department at the British Museum. In early 1850 he set off in the footsteps of his younger brother Percy, also an artist, and landed in Bombay. He spent much of his time painting portraits of local rulers and the surrounding countryside, often wearing Indian dress himself. He travelled widely, from Sri Lanka in the south to Kashmir in the north, and he also spent some time in the Punjab and Afghanistan before moving south to Rajasthan. He appears to have returned to England in 1856. Ten years later he was living in Boston, USA, but he later returned to London, where he died in 1899. This painting shows the famous Golden Temple at the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in Punjab state. It is a general view looking northwards and showing part of the causeway. The temple, which is regarded as the spiritual centre of the Sikh faith, was built by Guru Arjan Singh in the late 16th century.

Physical description

General view northwards of the Golden Temple and dwellings across the Tank, with part of the Causeway, Amritsar (Punjab).

Place of Origin

Amritsar (made)


probably 02/1854 (made)


Carpenter, William, born 1818 - died 1899 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

watercolour on paper


Width: 52 cm, Height: 35.3 cm

Object history note

Historical significance: William Carpenter (1818-99)

William Carpenter was trained at the Royal Academy Schools, and was the eldest son of the distinguished portrait painter Margaret Sarah Carpenter and William Hookham Carpenter, who became Keeper of the Prints and Drawings Department at the British Museum.

He was in India from 1850 t0 1856, during which time he travelled extensively from Bombay (Mumbai) and across western India to Rajasthan, Delhi, Kashmir, Lahore and Afghanistan. His depiction of every day street scenes and groups of people is remarkably accurate and animated, his portraits vividly capturing the character of his sitters and the glowing effects of sunlight as cityscapes and architectural monuments. Brilliantly executed in a range of warm colours, his watercolours evoke a gentle romanticism.

After his return to England, The Illustrated London News published some of his watercolours. In 1881, he exhibited 275 of his paintings in a one-man show in the South Kensington Museum, London. This entire collection was subsequently acquired by the V&A.

Descriptive line

The Golden Temple, Amritsar by William Carpenter, paintings, watercolour on paper, India, 1854.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

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.
Patel, Divia; Rohatgi, Pauline and Godrej, Pheroza, "Indian Life and Landscape by Western Artists: an exhibition of paintings and drawings from the 17th to the early 20th century organised by the V&A and CSMVS". Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai and Victoria and Albert Museum, 2008, ISBN:81-901020-8-7

Labels and date

Amritsar, meaning 'pool of nectar' is the holiest of Sikh religious sites. In the late 16th century Guru Arjan Dev, conceived a shrine in the centre of the pool, called the Harmandir or House of God. This acquired its popular title of the Golden Temple when Ranjit Singh (1801-1839) rebuilt the structure and covered the roof in gilded copper plates. The charm of this painting is in the way Carpenter captures the local people in the foreground with the magnificent temple reflected in the pool in the background. [1/12/2008]


Paint; Paper



Subjects depicted

The Golden Temple




South & South East Asia Collection

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