COMPANY SCHOOL. 12 FINE ORIGINAL GOUACHE DRAWINGS OF FLOWERS NATIVE TO INDIA. [ca. 1840-1860].

$ 5,500.00

[COMPANY SCHOOL]. 12 FINE ORIGINAL GOUACHE DRAWINGS OF FLOWERS NATIVE TO INDIA. [ca 1840-1860].

12 sheets of transparent mica (ca 6 x 4 inches, corner mounted into separate sheets of a small drawing book 8 x 6 inches), each delicately and exquisitely painted with a flower (some minor chipping to body-colour, one or two creases to corners).

Provenance: with a contemporary ink shelfmark on the front cover: "No 8 R. 3 1/4"; with Bonhams, London, 1st December, 2009, lot 573.

Including superb miniatures of a convolvulus, a butterfly pea, jasmine, hibiscus, fire-cracker plant, cardinal creeper, carnation and other exotic plants native to India. All painted in opaque colour on slivers of transparent mineral known at the time as 'talc', but in fact sheets of mica, a mineral that splits easily into thin yet very tough and flexible flakes, as transparent as glass.

These anonymous watercolors belong to the larger tradition of Company painting, or works made by Indian artists for English patrons (usually employees of the East India Company, hence the name of the school). 

The forests of India were among some of the richest resources of the British colonies, and while the history of collecting and scientific study of natural specimens throughout India in the days of the British Empire and the East India Company can be attributed to British colonialism and the growth of scientific curiosity and the Age of Enlightenment in Britain, the converse is also true. India with its diverse landscapes, fauna and flora, and Britain's other colonies in exotic and tropical places, helped to create an increased interest in the study of natural history and scientific collecting in Britain and throughout the old world. The East India Company was very quick to respond to this increased interest in natural curiosities and set up the first museum in India. The magnificent Indian collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London has its origins in the India Museum, founded by the East India Company in 1798. When this collection was dispersed in 1879, much of the collection, especially the textiles and decorative arts, went to the South Kensington Museum.

The Indian Civil Services brought many British naturalists to India: some were sponsored by British and other European naturalists and museums, but many others worked entirely on their own; both were assisted by professional botanists such as Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911), John Gerard Koenig (1728-1785), Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854) and William Roxburgh (1751-1815).  Catalogued by Kate Hunter