In the second half of the eighteenth century, a number of amateur and professional European artists visited India and recorded Indian life, architecture, costumes and landscapes. Until then people in England had no visual image of India based on artists first-hand observations. Of the great European artists working on the Indian sub-continent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Daniells, Thomas (1749-1840) and his nephew William (1769-1837) were perhaps the most outstanding.
The Black Pagoda, a Shiva temple built in north Calcutta around 1730 by the wealthy merchant Govinda Ram Mitter, was perhaps never completely finished. The main tower collapsed some time around 1800, and only one of the smaller subsidiary shrines survives. The aquatint reproduces a scene set in the Chitpore Bazaar, with water buffalo swimming in the tank and huts with characteristic Bengali curved eaves. The tank is for the ritual ablutions.
The road to Cheringhee is situated on the east side of the Esplanade. By the end of eighteenth century, Calcutta was developing rapidly with beautiful public buildings and grand houses. Though the area was known as British residential area the land was normally owned and the houses are constructed by Bengali merchants.
The Daniells in the descriptive text that accompanied the Oriental Scenery, wrote: The gauts at Bernares are the most considerable of any on the Ganges.... An opinion prevails amongst them, that drawing their last breath at cossi is a circumstance much in favour of their employment of future happiness.
Bernares, with its abundantly buoyant and startlingly radiant riverside attracted many artists to paint it includes Hodges, Daniell etc. This is one of the most sacred place in India. A popular belief convinced among the Hindus, that if the dying breath is in this holy city, then there is a future contentment in life.
The Ranee, originally a Hindoo princess, while married to a Mahomedan prince, was known as Shah begum. She was a Rajput princess who killed herself in 1605, unable to bear the shame of her son’s revolt. This Mausoleum is in a large garden, near Allahabad with a simplicity in plan and a three-storeyed constructed with horizontal beams and without arches, decorated with sandstone and a large fountain nearby creates a conceptual Mahomedan architecture.
Part of the palace of Nawab Suja-ud-Dowla is seen on the left, the mosque appears highly elevated, and the new palace of the Nawab Asoph-ud-Dowla is seen along the waters’ edge. The Daniells stayed at Lucknow with Claude Martin who introduced them to the Nawab. The Nawab was pleased with their ‘Views of Calcutta’ and commissioned them for a set of views on Lucknow which the Daniells reportedly undertook but finally the Nawab was displeased with the result. The drawings were later utilized for the aquatints on Lucknow.
This Coloured Aquatint was drawn and engraved by Thomas & William Daniell dated 1801 which was considered as the principal Mahomedan architecture in India. The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jehan, as a mausoleum for his dearest wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1629. Today this is one of the highest celebrated & visited place in India.
Here in the river view of the Taj Mahal, Daniells play with the unaffected lighting initiating brilliant sunshine to the north facade.
Brindabund was a place of pilgrimage even in those days and Thomas Daniells were most markedly impressed by these 'beautiful and singular pagodas' whom they have described as most elegant sculptured. An oil painting on the same scene, was painted by Thomas as his diploma picture for the Royal Academy where it still hangs. Later Humphrey Repton used this aquatint in his design of 1806 for an aviary for the Royal pavilion at Brighton in U.K.
One of the ancient city among the seven holy cities of Hinduism, also known as Mathura (popularly known as the birth-place of Krishna). This view was taken from a garden on the opposite side of the river Jumna, with an imposing pavilion achieved in modern Mahomedan style. In the centre, the fort of Mutura and to the left the Jami Masjid with four minarets.
One of the largest mosque and the Principal religious monument in India was erected by the Emperor Shah Jehan in 1650. It stands on high platform on a rock with three colossal gateways. The entrance and the walls are made of red stone and are surmounted by marble domed pavilions. Several figures seen are the commandants with attendants of the fort.
Also known as Jantar-Mantar, was built around 1724, and was built by Maharaja Savai Jai Singh II of Jaipur on instructions from the mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah, to reform the Hindu calendar. Here the main instrument represented, the Samrat-Yantra, a Sundial probably fascinated by the artist for the difference and the extreme scale of such celestial tool.
Qutb-ud-Din Aibak, in 1199 laid its foundation but he could not finish it and the upper storeys were added by his successor Iltutmish. In 1803, an earthquake shattered the top seen here and it was replaced by Col. Robert Smith who was also was an accomplished amateur artist of considerable excellence. In 1848, however, his finial was taken down amidst controversy of its acceptibility and the Cuttub is now without its top.
This stone pavilion is made by Raja Tremal Naig, which is situated on the east side of the fort of Madura, for the purpose of viewing religious processions and ceremonies. It is erected of stone and ascended by ongoing steps. In the distance part of palace and other buildings in the fort of Madura visible.
Here the interior view of the palace at Madura with ornamental pointed arches supported with two rows of columns was the King’s hall to address spectators. This is a stone structure, not in level with several parts still outstanding with interior surface covered with lime or plaster and thoroughly painted with different colours. Two men approaching the group of figures at left and with some domestic cattle also observed at the back of the building.
This was a unique Choultry made by Tirumala Naik in 1635 as a reception hall for pilgrims, which in a form of a parallelogram with 312 x 125 feet in length and width, consists of a large hall with the ceiling of which is supported by six range of columns made from single stone and grey granite. The platform on pillars carved with mythical creatures and portrait sculptures of Nayaka rulers. On the second pillar to the right hand is the statue of the rajah with three of his wives and twelve signs of zodiac is noticed in the ceiling.
This is one of the greatest architectural achievements in south India and impressive in the Tanjore supremacy, the Brihadeshwara Temple. The temple is situated in the middle of the vast rectangular court and is entered on the east side through two gateways. The tower of the main shrine is sixty meter high and encrusted with delicate sculpture.
Mavalipuram is situated on the coast of south of Madras (Chennai) is popular for the early group of temples and the Monolithic sculptures from Pallava dynasty in the 7-8 centuries AD, when the site was a port. The ‘Pancha Ratha’ (Five vehicles) form a group of five temple monoliths carved out of granite to resemble chariots. Next to shrine are large stone block of lion, elephant, the ‘vahana’ or the vehicles of gods.
This is engraved by Thomas Daniell after the drawing of James Wales. The monolithic shrine, with a pyramidal superstructure topped by an octagonal roof, stands in the middle of the inner court of Indra Sabha cave, in the Kailasa Temple complex at Ellora, and a free standing elephant, and a column with Jain figures seated on top.
This is engraved by Thomas Daniell after the drawing of James Wales numbered fifteenth plate. Here the view from the above reveals the amazing compound of Kailasanatha temple. The temple is like a independent stone block which lies in the middle of a huge pit surrounded by a deep trench excavated into the hill.
21st Century site imagery courtesy Archaeological Survey of India.