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Company School Paintings & Drawings Company School Paintings & Drawings J.M.W. Turner (1775 - 1851)
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CULLALY DEEDY, water-gate in the Outer-rampart of SERING APATAM, where Tippoo Sultaun resided during the Siege (inscribed on original mount with title)
From the private collection of Maher Dadha, CMD - Bid & Hammer, who had acquired it from the Maharaja of Pudukottai in the 1970’s by descent. Prior to which it was owned by Douglas Barrett, Curator of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum, who gave it to the Maharaja of Pudukottai in 1960 as a gift for his hospitality on Barrett’s frequent visits to India (inscribed on back of mount: In memory of happy days in Pudukkottai, Feb 1960, Douglas Barrett)
J.M.W. Turner 1775 – 1851
Joseph Mallord William Turner was born on 23 April 1775 to William Turner, a barber and wig-maker, and his wife, Mary, in London, England.Over the course of six decades, he became one of the most celebrated painters Britain has ever produced. His father greatly encouraged his artistic abilities and would show off his paintings in his shop. At the age of 14, he entered the Royal Academy Schools, where he progressed from the Plaister Academy, drawing from casts of ancient sculpture, to the life class in 1792. He augmented his studies with other work experience, with architects and architectural draughtsman, including Thomas Malton, whom he later described as ‘my real master’. He also painted scenery for the London stage – the origin, presumably, of a lifelong love of music and opera. The flourishing market for landscape and antiquarian topography, whether watercolours for exhibition and sale, or reproduction in prints and books, provided his first real income. From the mid-1790s he settled on the routine he maintained for much of his life: touring during the summer and working in the studio in the winter months for the following year’s exhibitions, on commissions or for the engraver.
Turner exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1790, showing watercolours until 1796 when he sent his first oil, Fishermen at Sea (currently displayed at the Tate Britain in London, England), its marine subject signalling wider ambitions as a painter and his refusal to be typecast as a topographer. In the following years his exhibited works diversified into history, literature and myth, challenged the styles of the Old Masters and made rapid advances in technique. While some of his first important commissions were for architectural and topographical watercolours, such as views of Salisbury and its cathedral and his country estate, Stourhead, ordered by Richard Colt Hoare in 1795, prominent patrons soon supported his wider endeavours. In 1802, during the Peace of Amiens, a consortium of noblemen sponsored a visit to Paris, enabling Turner to study the Old Masters in the Louvre, and a tour of the Swiss Alps.
Elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1799 at the young age of 24 and Academician in 1802, Turner was recognized as a prodigy who promised to be the most outstanding painter of his generation.Already prosperous in 1800, he moved to a smarter address where he shared a studio with the marine painter J.T. Serres, some years his senior.He opened a gallery in 1804, which could accommodate up to about thirty works in more sympathetic conditions than in the crowded Academy.
While he continued to show historical and classical subjects that, save for their dazzling atmospherics, were old-fashioned by the 1830s, he was also highly responsive to contemporary subjects, especially those that marked a transition from the past. His commitment to the idea that a watercolour equaled an oil painting in complexity and expressive power raised the standard for others working in the medium and his exquisitely rendered works, heralded for their virtuosity, inspired generations of artists. Known for his technical brilliance and startling use of light and colour, he was influenced by footage of locations important to him in Wales, Switzerland, and England, and readings from writers and artists of the era, including John Ruskin and Lord Byron.
Turner remained a Londoner and kept a Cockney accent all his life, avoiding the veneer of social polish acquired by many artists of the time as they climbed the professional ladder. He died on 19 December 1851 in London. On 30 December, Turner’s remains were interred in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral, close to Reynolds and Lawrence, according to his wish ‘to be buried among my Brothers in Art’.
Turner’s work on a series of views of Seringapatam and the famous siege of 1799 was unknown until recently. Three subjects were in the hands of the London dealers, Colnaghi, in 1948, attributed to William Daniell, and were bought in that year by Ray Livingston Murphy. They were entered for sale at Christie’s in Murphy’s estateunder that attribution in November 1985, but were withdrawn when the misattribution was realised, and resubmitted for sale at Christie’s on 18 March 1986. These three subjects are: The Siege of Seringapatam (Tate, London); ‘HOOLLAY DEEDY, or new Sally-port in the inner rampart of SERINGAPATAM, where Tippoo Sultaun was killed, on the 4th May 1799’ (Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass.), and ‘RESIDENCE of the Mysore Rajah within the fort of SERINGAPATAM, during the last three years of his confinement.’ These titles appear on the original mounts of the respective watercolours, comparably with the title of the present work. The mount belonging to The Siege of SERINGAPATAM has been lost, together with its full correct title.
Turner never visited India, but was regularly asked to make finished views of places he did not know at first hand. In later life, for example, he made watercolours of Indian subjects for Lieutenant George Francis White’s Views in India, 1838. These were based on drawings by White himself. But during his early career Turner made a point of visiting the places he was to depict, and this commission put him in the then unusual position of relying on the work of others for basic information. The view of ‘Hoollay Deedy’ is evidently based on a drawing now in the India Office Library, London, by Thomas Sydenham, and Sydenham may have supplied drawings for the other subjects as well. The view of the Siege itself, however, is very similar in general composition to an engraving after a watercolour by Alexander Allen (this drawing was on the art market in 1988).
Turner may have been in direct contact with one or other of these officers in the Indian army, who may have commissioned the set, rather as White was to do much later. It has been suggested that he was invited to execute the views by the Thomas and William Daniell, uncle and nephew who had recently been in India and were well known as recorders of the Indian scene. This seems unlikely since they would surely have wished to make their own Seringapatam set. It is curious that no record of Turner’s involvement with these popular and topical Indian subjects has survived, since they were evidently mounted and titled with an owner in view.
The composition of the present watercolour closely follows that of a colour-beginning in the Turner Bequest (housed in the Tate
Gallery, London), TB CXCV – Z, which anticipates the procedures that Turner was to adopt throughout his later career when planning
his watercolours: a bold, simplified design of basic colour masses, devoid of specific detail. In making his finished view, he
has characteristically added appropriate figures, notably a soldier reclining on the bank of the river in the foreground, guards on
the battlements in the distance, and a lively procession with a personage borne in a litter across the open space between. A few
birds wheel in the sky above, and the masonry of the pyramidal structures in the foreground is more clearly defined.
It is interesting that the colour-beginning has so much in common with Turner’s lifelong practice in making preparatory studies
for watercolours, since it differs materially from the only other preparatory drawing we know relating to the Seringapatam group.
This is a study for the Siege subject; it exists in a UK private collection, and is in the nature of an unfinished ébauche, showing
much of the architectural detail of the city – Hindu temple, mosque and fortifications - along with numerous uniformed figures
of the soldiery advancing across the Cauvery river.
It is not known how or when Douglas Barrett acquired the painting, though he presumably did so in London. As Assistant Keeper,
and later Keeper, in the Department of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum, Barrett made frequent trips to India in pursuance
of study of the artefacts of the subcontinent, and stayed with the Maharajah of Pudukkottai on several occasions. He
presented this painting to his host, presumably on the Maharajah’s visits to London, as a memento of those visits. It was among
numerous items disposed off by the Maharajah in the mid - 1970s.
The significance of this very recent and exciting discovery lies in the fact that the series on Seringaptam is Turner's first surviving
battle subject - a painting of the Battle of the Nile exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799 is lost - and one of the very few
subjects that he is known to have painted on India, including a preliminary study, thus showing the importance he attached to
this commission (and presumably because Tipu Sultan was a very popular figure amongst the English and the Scots at the time).
To add to this is the knowledge that very few of Turner’s watercolours are as large in size as the one presented here,besides the
relevance Douglas Barrett attached to this work by gifting it to a person of the stature of the Maharaja of Pudukottai, some 160
years later, only adds further weight to its historical importance.
Viewing of this lot in London at Rountree Fine Art, by prior appointment through Bid & Hammer
Condition NotesSlight cleaning carried out in 2012 by Piers Townshend, Chief Conservator of Works of Art on Paper, Tate Britain