The Collections

Textiles: supplying cloth to the world

Created: 05.09.11

The East India Company could not compete successfully for spices with its larger and more powerful Dutch rival. Instead, it bought high-quality cotton and silk from India, trading with local merchants and making deals with Indian rulers. The Company came to dominate the global textile trade in the 1700s. It made huge profits from this lucrative enterprise, transforming the nature and impact of its business, both in Britain and in India.

Find out more about the Traders gallery


  • Name
  • Artist / Maker
  • Date made
  • ID
  • Stothard, Thomas
    1786
    ZBA4537
    The wreck of the 'Halsewell', Indiaman, 1786

    This small oil by Stothard shows the roundhouse - the passenger saloon under the poop - of the outward-bound East Indiaman 'Halsewell' in the early hours of 6 January 1786, after a storm drove her ashore at 2 a.m. across…

  • Knapton, George
    1744
    1934-12
    Captain Richard Chadwick, d. 1748

    A three-quarter-length portrait to right in a grey silk coat, a silver-laced yellow silk waistcoat and a grey bag wig. With his left hand, he gestures towards the 'Cornwall', 80 guns, with the flag of a vice-admiral of the white,…

  • Bushby, R
    1938-1488
    Honourable East India Company uniform: pattern 1818

    Full dress coat of a Commander, Honourable East India Company. Tail coat of fine blue wool lined with white silk twill. Large, heavy button back lapel faced with black velvet and embroidered with a twist pattern, outlining the buttonhole. The…

  • Teed, Richard
    1804
    SX1943-37
    Lloyds Patriotic Fund £50 presentation sword

    Lloyds Patriotic Fund £50 presentation sword. Owned by Captain Henry Wilson (Hon. East India Co.). The hilt consists of a gilt pommel and back-piece in the form of a lion's skin. The quillon is shaped as a Roman fascis, the…

  • Smith, Benjamin
    1806-07
    PLT0180
    Lloyd's Patriotic Fund Vase

    Lloyd's Patriotic Fund vase presented to John Fam Timins (c1766-1843) for his part in the defeat of a French squadron under Linois in 1804. Silver vase and cover of amphora form, with a flat cover surmounted with a lion passant.…

  • Alexander Hare (Movement Maker)
    circa 1798
    W1981-14
    969

    Pocket chronometer in 18ct yellow gold case, now mounted as a carriage clock. Thirty hour duration, single train, gilt brass four pillar fusee movement with Arnold type spring detent escapement and Arnold type Z balance. Seven turn helical blued-steel balance…

  • Serres, Dominic
    1786
    GH74
    Battle of Negapatam, 6 July 1782

    A depiction of the third of the five fleet actions fought off Ceylon and the east coast of India, at the end of the War of American Independence, between the French and English East Indies squadrons of Pierre-André de Suffren,…

  • Reynolds, Joshua
    1784
    1934-16
    Commodore Sir William James, 1722-83

    A three-quarter-length portrait to left in the full-dress uniform of Commodore of the Bombay Marine. Wearing a white wig, he leans on an anchor fluke and holds a drawing of a fort in his right hand. In 1747 James joined…

  • Rigaud, John Francis
    1788-92
    1943-151
    The Money Brothers: William Taylor, 1769-1834, James, 1772-1833, and Robert, 1775-1803

    A group portrait of three sons of William Money (1738-96), a Director of the East India Company and an Elder Brother of Trinity House, commissioned by Sir Robert Wigram Bt (1769-1830), Money's lifelong friend and business partner [ ref. Christies,…

  • Solvyns, Franz Balthazar
    1792
    OP1958-19
    The 'Charlotte of Chittagong' and other vessels at anchor in the River Hoogli

    This shows two views of the snow 'Charlotte, Chittagong' at anchor in the Hoogli River off Calcutta. She is shown in stern view on the left, with the name visible on the transom and in port-broadside view in the centre,…

  • Dorman, J.
    circa 1830
    OP1958-17
    Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia, c. 1754-1821

    A full-length portrait seated to left in a white robe and embroidered pashmina shawl. He wears a full moustache curled at the ends and a turban. In his left hand he holds a pair of dividers. His right arm rests…

  • William Dixon
    1798
    OP1951-9
    'View of Mr Perry's Yard, Blackwall'

    (Updated, July 2016) A panoramic view of the Blackwall merchant shipyard on the Thames, commemorating the launch of HM ship 'Kent', 74 guns, on 17 January 1798. Shipbuilding at Blackwall began in the16th century but was regularized when the East…

  • Capt Robert Williams
    Early 19th century
    OP1964-44
    On board an Indiaman

    This painting has the alternative title 'Deck scene in an Indiaman'. The attribution to Captain Robert Williams is not certain however the donor stated that it was painted by 'a captain of an East Indiaman called Williams about the time…

  • Sailmaker, Isaac
    circa 1685
    OP1966-7
    Two Views of an East Indiaman of the Time of King William III

    A portrait of a powerfully armed East India Company vessel, identifiable by the striped ensign, jack and pendants. A further mark of identification is the cypher positioned above the taffrail. The ship is shown from two positions, on the left…

  • Unknown
    unknown
    M1953-18.1
    1-pound roundshot

    This 1-pound roundshot is recorded as having been recovered from the timber of an Indiaman, though the circumstances and date are not known. Swivel guns firing shot of this size were carried on board Royal Navy dispatch schooners in the…

  • Unknown
    probably 19th century
    W1953-18.9
    Barnacle taken from hull of an Indiaman

    A single barnacle taken from the hull of an Indiaman with smaller ones growing on it, composed of organic nacre. The accretion of barnacles and weed growth, which coppering reduced but did not prevent, could severely affect the perfomance of…

  • Unknown
    1830-35, circa
    1927-336
    A Merchant Naval Captain, circa 1830

    A three-quarter-length portrait of a merchant captain facing slightly to the right and looking towards the viewer. He wears a naval jacket and gold braid, blue trousers, white shirt and a loose black cravat, and he holds a telescope. He…

  • Unknown
    circa 1811
    MED0466
    Honourable East India Company's Egypt Medal

    Honourable East India Company's Egypt Medal, 1801. The obverse depicts a sepoy, standing, holding a large ensign; an attack upon a fortified position in distance. The exergue bears the inscription in Persian: 'This medal has been presented in commemoration of…

  • Unknown
    circa 1811
    M1954-9
    Capture of Rodrigues, Isle of Bourbon and Isle of France

    Obverse: A sepoy, standing on the shore, his right arm raised, waving the Union Jack, spearing with his left hand the prostrate sceptre of France, (a winged cock;) a gun (right); a fleet of five vessels in a distant harbour…