Thomas and William Daniell watercolour

Dasasamadhi Ghat, Bernares by Thomas and William Daniell, £240,000 at Dreweatts.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Leading the Newbury saleroom’s latest Old Master, British and European Art sale was a fine watercolour and pencil study by Thomas and William Daniell – the uncle-and-nephew artistic duo who travelled to India in the late 18th century and famously recorded the scenes they witnessed in a series of popular platebooks.

Depicting the Dasasamadhi Ghat (a flight of steps leading down to a river) in Bernares, the example offered at the June 12 auction had numerous commercial qualities, not least the attractive subject showing one of the most important sites for Hindu pilgrimage on the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh.

The 14½ x 21¼in (37 x 54cm) image, created as a collaboration between Thomas and his nephew William, also benefitted from the fact that it was reproduced as an aquatint engraving in the Daniells’ 1796 Oriental Scenery platebook (it appeared as number 16 in volume one).

While copies of the print now make around £2000 at auction, the original picture proved an appealing proposition with the market for original works by the Daniells seemingly going from strength to strength.

Offered with a £30,000-50,000 estimate, it drew bidding from ‘a pool of Indian buyers’ according to the auction house’s head of department Brandon Lindberg. With the gavel eventually knocked down at £240,000, the price was highest for a work on paper at auction by either of the Daniells according to

Underlining the growth in the market, the work had fetched £20,000 when it last appeared at auction back in 1996 as part of the corporate collection of shipping conglomerate P&O sold at Christie’s.

Lindberg said: “We are delighted to have set a new world record for a watercolour by Thomas and William Daniell. The Ghats at Benares are an enduringly popular subject and it was in very good condition.

“It has impeccable provenance having been purchased directly from Thomas Daniell’s estate by the Bromley-Davenport family of Capesthorne Hall. In turn it was in the P&O Collection which was one of the most significant collections of works by the Daniells.

“The vendor purchased it soon after the collection was sold at Christie’s in 1996 and it has remained in their private collection for over 25 years.”

The sale followed a Dreweatts auction in 2022 where a collection of 11 works by the Daniells made a combined £345,900. It included another view Benares (now known as Varanasi), an oil on canvas, which made £190,000.

Home from home

Robert Home portrait

William Sydenham and his wife, with St Thomas’ Mount, Madras in the background by Robert Home, £210,000 at Dreweatts.

A rather different work in terms of style and subject but drawing similar levels of interest from Indian buyers, as well as some significant UK bidding here too, was a portrait of William Sydenham with his wife by Robert Home (1752-1834).

Offered from a different source, the painting showed the couple in Chennai (then known as Madras) with St Thomas’ Mount in the background. It had previously sold for £68,000 at Christie’s in 1997 – the previous auction record for Home according to

Here was pitched at £15,000-25,000 but after a prolonged contest it was knocked down at £210,000 to one of the bidders from the sub-Continent – a three-fold increase in price over the 27 years (although an increase of around 40% accounting for inflation).  

The 2ft 7in x 3ft (78 x 92cm) oil on canvas was dated to c.1791 when Sydenham was Lieutenant-Colonel in command of the First Battalion at St Thomas' Mount.

Home had travelled to Madras the year before and would become an important recorder of British India in the late 18th and early 19th century. He accompanied the Grand Army for the Third Mysore War against Tipu Sultan, making sketches of the forts and engagements and later produced prints of Select Views in Mysore (1794) as well as a series of paintings including Lord Cornwallis receiving the sons of Tipu Sultan as hostages, a work now in the National Army Museum in London.

Elsewhere at the Newbury sale, two works by JMW Turner failed to get away. They were featured in ATG no 2646.

The buyer’s premium at Dreweatts was 26/25%.