The British living in India during the late 18th and early 19th centuries commissioned these as records of Hindu and Muslim customs, ceremonies and celebrations. Indian artists trained in British watercolour techniques produced works that were often for the high officials of the East India Company in Bengal.
This show features two sets of paintings. One is a set of 12 Murshidabad watercolours completed from 1795-1810 depicting Hindu and Muslim occasions.
The other set is a collection of nine 19th century Panta paintings influenced by the work of the artist Sevak Ram.
Included among the latter group is a picture of a widow committing sutee, the Hindu ritual of self-sacrifice, to become a sati or ‘good woman’ by accompanying her dead husband to the afterlife. The custom was the subject of fascination for Europeans but is rarely depicted in works of art.
“These were made to be sent back to Britain as illustrations of what life in India was like,” says the gallery’s Christine Ramphal. “We were fortunate to get these two sets together at the same time.”
The Patna watercolour A widow with the burning corpse of her husband becoming a sati was produced 1820-30 and measures 16 x 23in (40 x 58cm). Pieces are priced from £5000-50,000.