painting / album
Opaque watercolour painting on European paper of a man, sporting a mutton-chop moustache, apparently wearing a lungi and a long, loose jacket with a diaphanous shawl and a turban. Small earrings in the helix of his ears and bracelets complete his attire. On his forehead is a Vaishnava namam (emblem). A sword hangs from his left shoulder. His wife wears a sari covering her bare chest and is adorned with a number of jewels. In the background are plants and shrubs.
- 1830-1835 (circa)
- Painted in: Tamil Nadu
- (Asia,India,Tamil Nadu)
- Found/Acquired: India
- (Asia,South Asia,India)
- Height: 18.2 centimetres
- Width: 11.3 centimetres
Inscription Positionlower border
Inscription ContentA Teligen Jetty, or wrestler and Sword Player
Inscription CommentThe Jettis mentioned in the caption are a Telugu class of professional wrestlers.
This painting is part of a set of ninety-two drawings depicting various Indian castes and occupations. An explanatory caption in English, written in a flowing early nineteenth-century hand, accompanies the majority of the drawings. Their repertoire covers a vast range of castes from the Telugu Brahmins to the Boyis and occupations from the astrologer to the jailer, interspersed with a colourful array of religious mendicants, acrobats and musicians. Of particular interest is a drawing of a private soldier (1884,0913,0.74), of the Private Grenadier Company of the 1st Madras Native Infantry, dressed in a uniform of the early 1820s, which helps to date the album to the early decades of the nineteenth century. This date is confirmed by the presence of a portrait of Serfoji II, raja of Thanjavur (r. 1798–1832), and his wife in this volume (1884,0913,0.44). In depicting the faces of his characters the artist consistently uses a ‘miniaturist technique’, i.e. minute dots of colour; the chin, forehead and nose areas are lightly shaded to suggest plasticity. The rendering of textiles, costumes and jewellery reveals a documentary precision and care for detail. The figures are slender and elegant rather than imposing, and the background is no longer monochrome: either the paper is left plain or in some cases a line of trees and shrubs dots the line of the horizon. The foreground is sometimes green, suggesting perhaps a meadow, or a very pale brownish wash but most frequently a dark, heavy looped shadow is attached to the feet of the figures.
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Object reference number: RFI571
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