Both views are taken from Kidderpore, looking upriver to Fort William and Esplanade Row and down river to Garden Reach and the Botanic Gardens. Two steam tugs appear in one of the views dating the picture to post 1825, the date, Emulous, the first steam-tug arrived in Calcutta, used to pull the ships up and down the river.
After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, British trade in India expanded rapidly, swelling the population of Calcutta to more than 150,000 people. A large garrison was placed at the new Fort William and merchants and traders began to flock to the city in ever-increasing numbers. The Esplanade and Chowringee Road became the seat of great private 'houses of agency' which managed the funds of East India Company servant and private traders.
William Prinsep belonged to a large and well-known Anglo-Indian family, which produced a number of artists. His father, John Prinsep of the East Indian Company, often regarded as the founder of the indigo trade in India, had seven sons, all of whom followed him to India as traders, lawyers or civil servants. William, the fifth son, worked for the House of Palmer & Co., bankers and merchants in Calcutta, as did his younger brother, George. Like all the amateur artists in Calcutta he took lessons in painting from George Chinnery. He and his friends used to meet at the house of Sir Charles D'Oyly for evenings of painting and music. Prinsep was a prolific amateur artist, painting landscapes, figures and the architecture of Calcutta, as well as recording a return journey to England in 1842 in a fascinating series of watercolours. Although many watercolours by the artist are recorded, oil paintings are very rare. This picture is stylistically similar to a signed picture by the artist of another view of Calcutta (see Christie's, 25 October 1991, lot 10).