The first Sikh War began when the Sikh army, increasingly uncontrollable since the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, crossed the Sutlej on 11 December 1845, an event for which the British forces were sufficiently well-prepared that they were able to force the first engagement only a week later at Mudkhi. The battle at Ferozedshah, on 21 December, the second of four fiercely contested battles over the winter of 1845-1846, forced the Sikhs' withdrawal behind the Sutlej. Hardinge led the centre of the British line, serving as second-in-command under Sir Hugh Gough - although a reassertion of his authority early in the day did little to clarify the British plan of battle. After two more battles at Buddowal and Sabroan, the British and their Indian mercenaries triumphed and occupied Lahore; under the Treaty of Bhairowal of December 1846, they annexed the eastern half of the Sikh kingdom and became custodians of the other half.
Sir Francis Grant enjoyed a distinguished reputation for equestrian portraits. In 1840 the success of his portrait of 'Queen Victoria and Melbourne Riding in Windsor Park' ensured that he was the most fashionable portrait painter of the day. He was a family friend of the Hardinges. This oil sketch is based on a sketch executed on the spot by The Hon. Charles Hardinge, Lord Hardinge's son. The larger finished picture with minor changes is in the collection of Viscount Hardinge, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1849, no. 336 and engraved by S.W. Reynolds. Grant also painted a three-quarter length portrait of the Governor-General which is in the same collection, a replica of which is in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
We are grateful to Dr Catherine Wills for her assistance with the cataloguing of this picture.