The Munshi Abdul Karim (1863-1909)

Angeli, Heinrich von AngeliSigned and dated 1890

Royal Collection Trust, UK

Royal Collection Trust, UK

The Munshi Abdul Karim entered the Queen's service in 1887 as her personal Indian servant. The Queen considered him 'a perfect gentleman' and in 1888 he became her official Indian Secretary. He gave the Queen lessons in Hindustani. However, the Munshi used his increasingly privileged position to cause difficult and embarrassment to the Queen's Household, family and ministers, and on the accession of Edward VII to the throne the Munshi was sent back to India. He was pensioned in April 1901 and died in Agra.

This portrait shows the Munshi with his head and shoulders to the front, wearing a turban. It was painted for Queen Victoria who wrote in 1890 to the Empress Frederick that Von Angeli was going to paint Abdul Karim. 'He has never painted an Oriental before & was so struck with his handsome face and colouring that he is going to paint him on a gold ground! I daresay it will be very fine'. The Queen was at first not happy about the portrait, because she considered Von Angeli had painted the Indian's complexion too dark. The work was hung in Frogmore Cottage, where the Munshi lived.

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  • Title: The Munshi Abdul Karim (1863-1909)
  • Creator: Baron Heinrich von Angeli (1840-1925)
  • Date Created: Signed and dated 1890
  • Provenance: Painted for Queen Victoria
  • Rights: Supplied by Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
  • External Link: http://www.rct.uk/collection/406915
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 61.4 x 51.1 cm