European Collectors

European Collectors

European collectors, ranging from British military commanders and East India Company officials to mercenaries and travelers, acquired numerous paintings and decorative objects from Lucknow. Among the most notable connoisseurs and patrons were Jean-Baptiste Gentil (1726–1799), Antoine Polier (1741–95), Claude Martin (1735–1800), and Richard Johnson (1753–1807).

Gentil, Polier, and Johnson each established painting studios employing Indian artists. Gentil commissioned architectural studies, illustrated texts on India, and copies of Tilly Kettle's portraits of Awadh's rulers. Polier's studio, headed by the artist Mihr Chand, produced numerous albums containing paintings and calligraphies. Many of the folios were adorned with distinctive floral borders. Richard Johnson's painting collection is extraordinary in its representation of individual local artists.

Claude Martin, the wealthiest European in India, lived in Lucknow from 1776 to 1800. He built several distinctive residences in the city including a vast country house now known as La Martinière. He also collected Indian and Persian manuscripts, natural history studies, and Indian weapons and jades, among other things.

Gentil, Polier, Johnson, Martin, and other collectors were part of a close social and intellectual commumnity at Awadh. 


Image 1: Nevasi Lal (fl. c. 1760–75), Nawab Shuja al-Daula with His Ten Sons, after a Painting by Tilly Kettle, India, Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad, 1774, Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 181?4 x 151?2 in. (46.4 x 39.5 cm), Musée national des Arts asiatiques-Guimet, Paris, no. 35571.

Image 2: Attributed to Mihr Chand, India, fl. 1759–86, Jami Mosque, Delhi, from a Polier Album, India, Faizabad or Delhi, c. 1773–76, Opaque watercolor on paper, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Asiatische Kunst, I 5005, folio 2.

Image 3: Style of Mihr Chand, A Partridge and an Iris, from a Polier Album, India, Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad or Lucknow, c. 1765–75, Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, Image 9 3/8 x 10 in., Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Islamische Kunst, I.4595, folio 17.

Image 4: Bahadur Singh, India, fl. c. 1760–90, Portrait of a Mufti, from a Johnson Album, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1775, Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, The British Library, London, J.1, 20.

Image 5: Sword Presented to Claude Martin by Asaf al-Daula in 1786/87, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, dated 1786/87, Hilt: white nephrite inlaid with rubies and emeralds set in gold; blade: watered steel inlaid with gold, L. 38 5/8 in., Private collection by courtesy of Howard Ricketts.

Image 6: F. Frith & Co.; Francis Frith (England, 1822–1898), La Martinière, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, 1870s, Albumen print, Approx. 9 x 12 in., Musée national des Arts asiatiques-Guimet, Paris, AP 15364.