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Scene on the Ganges, probably in Bihar

William Melville

Oil on canvas

c.1845-1850
  • About the work
    Location
    Country: India
    City: New Delhi
    Place: British High Commission
    Interpretation about this artwork is under review

    The Government Art Collection recognises its responsibility to artists, colleagues and all our audiences to represent the diversity of the UK and to embed anti-racist and equitable practices throughout our work. We are taking action to address inequality in the Collection and its interpretation.

    This painting and its pair (GAC 1229 and GAC 1230) include the Ganges and probably show parts of the river within the northern Indian state of Bihar. One depicts a substantial property, built in the manner of an 18th-century English country house, while the other shows a paddle steamer ploughing through the waters in the middle distance. The pictures are apparently a pair depicting different views of the same place. Although the location has yet to be identified, the house bears a resemblance to Barrackpore House, the country residence of the Governor General of Bengal, as it was between 1807 and 1815, when the then Governor Lord Francis Rawdon Hastings (1754–1826) further aggrandised it. The inclusion of a paddle steamer, however, points to a date later than 1815 for these paintings, because paddle steamers were not common on the river Ganges until about 1830.

  • About the artist
    William Melville arrived in India in 1814 as a free merchant. From 1824 until 1832 he worked for the firm of Fergusson and Company, Calcutta, first as an assistant and then as a partner. He then appears to have travelled up the country and perhaps lived by painting. In about 1835 he painted several portraits at Sardhana, Uttar Pradesh, including one of Begum Samru, which was later purchased for Government House, Allahabad. During the 1830s Melville also seems to have painted a portrait of Colonel James Skinner, which still hangs in St James’s Church in Delhi. His name appears on a picture inscribed ‘Simla 1843’ and also on a portrait dated 1847 of three Indians standing in front of a European-style bungalow, possibly in Simla.
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  • Details
    Title
    Scene on the Ganges, probably in Bihar
    Date
    c.1845-1850
    Medium
    Oil on canvas
    Dimensions
    height: 57.50 cm, width: 115.00 cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Sotheby's, November 1950
    Provenance
    Sold through Sotheby's, London, in November 1950; from which sale purchased by Agnew's Gallery, London, on behalf of the Ministry of Works
    GAC number
    1230