The present watercolour painted by Clarke circa 1830-40, is a celebration of the magnificent Residence of Hyderabad in the Deccan.
James Achilles Kirkpatrick (1764-1805), who assumed the position of British Resident in Hyderabad after his brother retired through ill-health, was given a sixty-acre site on the river Musi by the Nizam, to build his house. The building begun in 1803, was designed and supervised by Lt. Samuel Russell of the Madras Engineers (son of the Royal Academician, John Russell).
The Palladian style Residence with river frontage was approached along a formal processional route along the river and through a triumphal archway that can be seen in the background of the present watercolour. As Philip Davies asserts 'Paid for by the Nizam, the house was an architectural expression of supreme power intended for political ends' (Splendours of the Raj, London, p. 95).
Henry Russell was Resident until between 1811 and 1820 and was succeeded by Charles Metcalf. The procession does not appear to record a specific event but shows an exchange of courtesies between the Nizam and the Resident. The Resident and his swarry (attendants and outriders) would set off in procession to deliver a letter or pay an official compliment and would then return accompanied by caparisoned elephants provided by the Nizam as a courtesy. It was however also quite usual at this time for the British Resident to have his own elephants in his swarry.
An account published in R.M. Grindlay's Scenery, Costumes and Architecture, chiefly on the western side of India, explains how the Nizam's elephant was always bedecked in a yellow cloth and the other person in the entourage, usually the English resident, would ride an elephant decorated in red. This is clearly seen in this watercolour. The Nizam's retinue occasionally numbered 5,000 and is described thus 'the very noise and numbers and disorder are imposing, and an animated and brilliant effect is produced by the variety of colours in the turbans and dresses of the attendants (see Grindlay, op.cit., vol. II, after pl. 19, lot 375 in this sale). Robert Melville Grindlay (1786-1877) made his drawing of the Residency in 1813 and although the present watercolour shows the procession approaching from the opposite side of the house, Clarke may well have been influenced by this well known image.