Please note that the illustration for this lot is incorrectly labeled as lot number 356.
DELHI SCHOOL, c. 1835
The following watercolours are slightly later copies after miniatures commissioned by the prominent military man Colonel James Skinner, C.B., or Sikander Sahib, who became a celebrated figure in Indian ,
military history. An Anglo-Indian son of a Scotsman and an Indian woman of the Rajput (warrior) Caste, Skinner is largely known for the two cavalry regiments he founded for the British at Hansi in 1803, later known as 1st Skinner's Horse and 3rd Skinner's Horse. Fluent in Persian, the intellectual language of the day at the Indian court, he wrote several important texts in Persian including Tashrih al-aqvam, an account of origins and occupations of some of the sects, castes and tribes of India, from which these watercolours are derived (see C. Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum, London, 1966, pp. 65-7, and N.M. Titley, Miniatures from Persian Manuscripts: a Catalogue and Subject Index of Paintings from Persia, India and Turkey in the British Library and British Museum, London, 1977, pp. 155-7). Commissioned in circa 1825 Skinner's miniatures comprised one hundred and ten illustrations of various members of society shown performing their daily tasks. A romantic fascination with Indian everyday life led many Europeans based in India to commission vast sets of watercolours to send back to friends and family, depicting tradesmen and local crafts, conveyances, bazaars, architecture and the local flora and fauna.
The present watercolours are believed to have been executed, probably for an admirer of Skinner's work, in the Delhi area, circa 1835, with the name of each figure inscribed in Urdu on each sheet, and with sheets of accompanying text written by Muhammad Bakhsh. The Skinner miniatures were executed in the Company School style, combining the Mughal court tradition of using a vibrant palette and clear-cut detail with western influence towards greater naturalism, perspective and shading. The artist of these watercolours is unknown but it is clear that they were skilled in capturing the costume and character of their subject matter.
We are grateful to Jerry Losty for his help in preparing these catalogue entries.