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Part 1: East India Company Paintings Exibition & The Salvation Army

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

What piqued my interest in the East India Company paintings was the misconception that my Great Grandfather, who was born in India in 1853, worked for the East India Company from about 1874. It was in fact, the Indian Civil Service, thank goodness. (see ADDENDUM as a later post). I will explain later. He went on to marry my Great Grandmother, Emma Booth, daughter of William Booth, who started the Salvation Army.

Also, last year in July I had done a walking tour which included the warehouses of the East India Company, where silk, coffee, ivory and other luxury goods were stored, down in Leadenhall and Lime streets.

I had seen a review of the book The Anarchy - The Relentless Rise of the East India Company by William Dalrymple and ordered it from the library. It is rather a weighty tome, but a very readable narrative of a tumultuous period in both Britain’s and India’s history - according to Steve. I haven’t started it yet. So when I saw the Forgotten Masters - Indian Paintings for the East India Company advertised, I was keen to see them. The artists are known as Indian Masters who had previously worked for the Mughals. The skill and finely detailed work is superb. It is even better close up.

High-ranking employees of the East India Company would commission whole books of flora and fauna and their everyday life. They are all done in the most beautiful water colours. William Dalrymple does the audio guide and is brilliant. He certainly doesn’t rate the East India Company or sing its praises - and neither he should. It is historical Britain, systematically plundering another country, creating another colony and repressing the people. No wonder there was an uprising in 1857!

The exhibition is on at Hertford House, Marylebone which also houses the Wallace Collection. This was my third visit and I am still in awe of what is in this wonderful collection, bequeathed to the nation upon the death of Lady Wallace in about 1896. The collection is free to visit, like so many of London’s museums and some galleries. Makes it easy to find a little bit of culture. I’ll let the photos show you.

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