As early as the first half of the 18th century, artists known as 'moochys' from as far away as Hyderabad moved to southern India and took up residence there, establishing studios and ultimately painted for both French and British patrons. As they came into contact with the British, Indian artists began to absorb European methods of composition and perspective, not only appreciating British techniques but also beginning to understand British taste and desire to collect images of Indian life (Milder Archer, Company Paintings: Indian Paintings of the British Period, London, 1992, p.43).
Sets of watercolours were produced depicting men and women of castes in costumes relating to their trade or occupation and carrying the relevant tools or attributes. In the earliest examples the background was kept to broad stripes of green or blue and yellow, with a thin bank of cloud across the upper edge. An attempt to follow the European tradition of three dimensionality and volume resulted in dark hoops beneath each figure to represent shadow. Towards the turn of the century a zigzag of white was introduced across the sky to delineate a great cumulus cloud and the landscape of diminutive, trees bushes and thatched huts across the horizon became more precise. Mildred Archer writes that the realistic and delicate style developed in Tanjore was unrivalled by any other Company school.
For other Tanjore paintings from the same series, see Mildred Archer, Company Paintings: Indian Paintings of the British Period, 1992, cat. 15(6), p. 20 and pp. 49-51. Others sold at Christie's South Kensington, 10 June 2013, lot 40.
An album of 52 similar paintings is in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, dated to 1795-1800 (Roselyne Hurel, Miniatures et Peintures Indiennes, vol.II, Paris, 2010, cat. 307 (1-52), p.138).