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AN ILLUSTRATION FROM A FRASER ALBUM: MAWLAWI SALAMAT ALLAH OF MATHURA WITH A DISCIPLE AND A MUSICIAN
AN ILLUSTRATION FROM A FRASER ALBUM: MAWLAWI SALAMAT ALLAH OF MATHURA WITH A DISCIPLE AND A MUSICIAN
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AN ILLUSTRATION FROM A FRASER ALBUM: MAWLAWI SALAMAT ALLAH OF MATHURA WITH A DISCIPLE AND A MUSICIAN

DELHI OR HARYANA, NORTH INDIA, CIRCA 1815-1819

Details
AN ILLUSTRATION FROM A FRASER ALBUM: MAWLAWI SALAMAT ALLAH OF MATHURA WITH A DISCIPLE AND A MUSICIAN
DELHI OR HARYANA, NORTH INDIA, CIRCA 1815-1819
Opaque and transparent pigments on paper, each figure identified in nasta’liq in black ink and pencil, mounted, framed and glazed, with an Eyre and Hobhouse typed label on the reverse of the frame
12 1/8 x 16 ½in. (31 x 42 cm.)
Provenance
Collection of William Fraser (1784-1835) and James Fraser (1783-1856), thence by descent
Malcolm R. Fraser, Esq., sold, Sotheby’s, London, 7 July 1980, lot 20
With Eyre and Hobhouse Gallery, London
Literature
Mildred Archer and Toby Falk, India Revealed: The Art and Adventures of James and William Fraser 1801-35, London, 1989, no.70, p.98
Oliver Hoare, The Silent Orchestra: Musical Instrument from Islamic Lands, London, 2005, cover image

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Lot Essay

This watercolour is from a series of illustrations commissioned by William Fraser (1784-1835) and his brother, the amateur artist and author, James Baillie Fraser (1783-1856). William Fraser, like many Scotsmen in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, travelled to India and arrived in Bengal in 1799. He joined the service of the East India Company and spent most of his career as Assistant to the Resident at Delhi. His brother joined him in India in 1814. Between 1815 and 1819 the brothers commissioned various drawings and watercolours of individuals and groups of figures to serve as a record of local life in Delhi and its neighbouring areas.

The Fraser Albums are considered amongst the earliest and one of the finest groups of Company School pictures to be produced in India in the 19th century. These drawings have 'not only made a great contribution to knowledge of the work of Indian artists in early nineteenth-century Delhi, but provide an unsurpassed record of life in and around the old Mughal capital before chaos and the new British administration brought that rich culture to an end' (M. Archer and T. Falk, India Revealed The Art and Adventures of James and William Fraser 1801-1835, London, 1989, p. 57). The Fraser collection represents the diverse range of people to be seen in Delhi and its environs. There are remarkably naturalistic portraits of local noblemen and their courtiers, dancing girls, musicians, Afghan horse-dealers, ascetics and villagers, recruits from Skinner’s Horse, a regiment formed by Colonel James Skinner who was a great friend of the Fraser brothers. The brothers also commissioned works while travelling through the Himalayas with James Skinner at the time of the Anglo-Nepal War in 1814-15. (J.P. Losty and Malini Roy, Mughal India – Art, Culture and Empire, London, 2012, pp.221-223).

Many of the drawings in the Skinner Album, commissioned by James Skinner between 1820-30 and attributed to Ghulam ‘Ali Khan, now in the British Library (Add.Or.1243-1283) are versions of the compositions in the Fraser pictures. Mawlawi Salamat Allah from our watercolour is also depicted in the Skinner Album, where he is identified as ‘Moulvie Salaamut Oolah (of Cawnpore)’ (Add.Or.1250; Mildred Archer, Company Drawings in the India Office Library, London, 1972, no.169 (viii), p.199).

The names of all the artists who worked on the Fraser pictures are not known but several have been attributed to artists such as Ghulam ‘Ali Khan from Delhi, Lallji and his son Hulas Lal from Patna, and the ‘Fraser Master’. Ghulam ‘Ali Khan, who had worked under the patronage of the Mughal court, was initially considered the main artist for the Fraser Albums. This was partly due to his employment with James Skinner and the Frasers and his subsequent involvement with the Skinner Album. The Eyre and Hobhouse label on the reverse of the frame attributes our watercolour to Ghulam ‘Ali Khan. Scholars now disagree with this attribution based on his relatively poor execution of figures in otherwise incredibly fine architectural scenes, such as the Divan-i Khas in the Delhi Palace in the British Library (Add.Or.4694), ascribed to Ghulam ‘Ali Khan and dated 1817. The earliest known portraits by him are on ivory of the Mughal Emperor Akbar II and his son Mirza Salim which date from circa 1827, later than the Fraser Albums (Losty and Roy, ibid., pp.217-222). For further discussion on Ghulam ‘Ali and his work, see William Dalrymple and Yuthika Sharma, Princes & Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857, New Delhi, 2012, pp.41-51.

The Fraser Albums were sent back to Scotland in 1819 and discovered amongst the papers of the Fraser family in 1979. The majority of the illustrations were subsequently sold at three auctions in 1980 at Sotheby’s, London and New York, and are now dispersed among a number of public and private collections worldwide. Recently sold Fraser illustrations at auction include Sotheby’s London, 19 October 2016, lot 19; Bonhams, London, 8 April 2014, lots 299, 300, 301; Christie’s, South Kensington, 7 October 2009, lot 139; Sotheby’s, London, 22 March 2007, lot 172.

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