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Rare 19th century Indian paintings up for auction

A painting of a bullock-drawn carriage of Prince Mirza Babur expected to fetch up to 30,000 pounds. Picture: Christies

A painting of a bullock-drawn carriage of Prince Mirza Babur expected to fetch up to 30,000 pounds. Picture: Christies

  • by FRANK URQUHART
 

PART of a “treasure trove” of rare Indian paintings, commissioned by two Inverness brothers in Delhi in the early 19th century, are expected to fetch close to £100,000 when they go under the hammer at a leading London auction house next month.

Bonhams today announced they are sell three stunning images from The Fraser Album, discovered amongst the papers of a Scottish family in 1979, at its next auction of Indian and Islamic art on 8 April.

Julian Roup, a spokesman for the auction house explained: “The album consists of more than 90 watercolours of breathtaking quality, which provide an extraordinary portrait of life in and around Delhi in the early 19th century. This was an area which was relatively unknown to the British at that date, with Mughal control ceded to them only in 1803 and the Emperor nominally in power.”

The album was collected by James and William Fraser from Inverness. William went to India aged 16 as a trainee political officer in the East India Company while James arrived a year later, taking a commercial position in Calcutta.

Mr Roup said: “When James joined William in Delhi in 1815 the two brothers commissioned local artists to depict servants, tradesmen and figures from the irregular military units, some of which were employed by the British, including Ghurkha soldiers and the colourfully-attired troopers of bodies such as Skinner’s Horse.

“More than one artist was employed on the paintings which go to make up the album. The best examples are usually attributed to Ghulam Ali Khan, but it is likely that the rest were produced by other members of his family. The works date between 1815 and 1820.”

He continued: “The lots in the present sale capture the richness of ceremonial life in Delhi, and are also representative of the British fascination with types of transport and servants which appears in other more typical examples of Company School painting.”

One of the paintings depicts an elephant and driver, probably from the Mughal Emperor’s stable, with a hunting howdah equipped with a rifle, bows and a pistol and carries an estimate of £20,000 to £30,000.

The second Fraser Album image is of the bullock-drawn carriage of Prince Mirza Babur, Delhi or Northern India, also estimated at between £20,000 and £30,000.

The third painting is of a cotton-carder at work, attributed to the artist Ghulam Ali Khan and is also estimated at between £20,000 and £30,000.

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