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    Sale 7586

    West ~ East - The Niall Hobhouse Collection

    22 May 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 7

    Bhawani Das, circa 1778-82

    Great Indian Fruit Bat (Flying Fox), Pteropus giganteus, with both wings outstretched

    Price Realised  


    Bhawani Das, circa 1778-82
    Great Indian Fruit Bat (Flying Fox), Pteropus giganteus, with both wings outstretched
    with inscription 'In the Collection of Lady Impey at Calcutta/painted by Bhawani Das [in Persian] Native of Patna' (lower left) and numbered '163' (upper right), fragmentary watermark.
    pen and black ink and watercolour with gum arabic, heightened with touches of bodycolour
    18 x 27 in. (45.7 x 68.7 cm.)

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    Sir Elijah Impey was Chief Justice of Bengal from 1774 to 1782. His wife Mary, Lady Impey, who joined him in Calcutta in 1777, was enchanted by the flora and fauna of her new surroundings and established a private menagerie at their estate on Middleton Row. She assembled a wide variety of exotic animals and birds and employed three Indian artists to paint them from life.

    The artists all signed themselves 'Natives of Patna', the most senior of them being the Muslim artist Shaikh Zayn-al-Din, and the other two artists were Hindus Bhawani Das and Ram Das, who joined Zayn-al-Din three years after his arrival in Calcutta. All three artists were trained in the Mughal tradition of the court painters, a style of painting most appealing to English patrons and most suitable for the adaptation to European tradition of bird illustration. The Impeys were the first European patrons of natural history painting in India and are still considered today as amongst the most important. The present watercolour comes from a group that totalled 326 and were brought back to England with the Impeys in 1783. The collection was sold at Phillips, London, 21 May 1810. Examples from the Impey series can now be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Radcliffe Science Museum in Oxford, the Binney Collection in San Diego and the Wellcome Institute, London. A small number remain in private collections. A group of watercolours from the Impey Collection were sold by the 18th Earl of Derby in these Rooms, 17 June 1998, lots 170-3.

    The Great Indian Fruit Bat is extremely large, with a wing span of up to 1.5 metres. They roost at night in colonies in trees and feed during the day in large groups among fruiting trees. It is found in India, Sri Lanka and the Maldive Islands, Myanmar (Burma), and western China.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Mary Reade, Lady Impey (1749 - 1818).
    Stuart Cary Welch.


    New York, The Asia Society; New Haven, Yale Center for British Art; Detroit, The Art Institute, S. C. Welch, Room for Wonder, Indian Painting during the British Period 1760-1880, 1978, no. 8, illustrated.
    London, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, Indian Painting for British Patrons 1770-1860, 27 February - 28 March 1991, no. 2, illustrated.
    London, Niall Hobhouse, Indian Painting for the British 1780-1880, May 2001, no. 1, illustrated.

    Post Lot Text

    We are grateful to Peter Olney for his help in identifying the mammals and birds in this, and subsequent lots.