Scenes showing the country houses of British officials and gentlemen in India had been a common subject since the 18th Century (see examples from circa 1770 in S. Cary Welch, Room for Wonder: Indian Painting during the British Period 1760-1880, pp. 30-31). The elegant depiction of a country house was often, as in the present watercolour, embellished with the figure of the owner who, travelling by palanquin and accompanied by a train of servants, further demonstrated his wealth and status.
This drawing has been previously published as the work of a Calcutta School artist in the employ of Colonel Gilbert (Eyre and Hobhouse, op. cit., no. 42). Walter Raleigh Gilbert arrived in India in 1801 with the 15th Native Infantry and spent some time in Calcutta before moving to headquarters at Hazaribagh from 1822-1828. His interest in Indian art may have been responsible for his friendship with Sir Charles D'Oyly, whose sister-in-law, Isabella Ross, Gilbert married in 1814. The Gilberts commissioned a large number of works from Calcutta School artists, including a set which showed scenes of their life in India (e.g. M. Archer, Company Painting: Indian Paintings of the British Period, London, 1992, no. 74). However, while similar in style and subject, the present drawing shows a more confident and successful use of perspective than that in known works from the Gilbert collection in the India Office Library and the Victoria & Albert Museum.
We are grateful to Jerry Losty for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.