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The 'Charlotte of Chittagong' and other vessels at anchor in the River Hoogli

Fine art

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Object ID BHC1100
Description 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, flying a jack, a commissioning pendant and plain red ensign at the stern. The date of the painting means that by this time Calcutta was the capital of British India and so yacht and dispatch vessels hitherto managed by the East India Company were now answerable to the Crown and would appear as naval ships. With their large passenger accommodation these ships were previously used by the East India Company as dispatch vessels and to carry Company servants around the coasts and up the great rivers of India. The really profitable trade routes for the East India Company were those between Asian ports, conducted by the many small trading vessels like the 'Charlotte', which were built in the East, and often owned by Indian merchants. Such seaborne trade had existed for 100s of years before Europeans arrived in the Indian Ocean. The principal ship is shown at anchor. Two furrings are extended across the deck to provide shade and several turbaned figures are shown on the deck. A woman is highlighted in the centre of the ship. The low light and the golden glow behind the clouds indicate that this is sunrise. People are however largely absent, reflecting a characteristic response by western artists to depictions of Indian cities. The painting evokes calm stillness and the low viewpoint emphasizes the reflections in the water. The buildings of Calcutta providing evidence of trade and western influences are represented basking in the golden glow of the rising sun. The brig yacht to the right is not naval and a carriage pulled by several oxen is shown on the far right moving along the jetty; two retainers walk behind the carriage. The artist was born in Antwerp and after a period as the pupil of Andrea de Quartenmont he moved to Paris under the tutelage of Fran├žois Vincent. They were both history painters. In 1789 he went to India where he sketched and painted many aspects of Indian life and particularly studies of indigenous craft. The artist created a book of engravings 'Pleasure Boats and Boats of Landing' showing similar scenes from a western perspective. See PAI 2514. The painting has been signed and dated 'B Solvyns 1792' on a spar in the foreground on the right.
Date made 1792

Artist/Maker Solvyns, Franz Balthazar
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials oil on panel
Measurements Painting: 533 mm x 610 mm; Frame: 711 mm x 802 mm x 99 mm
  • The 'Charlotte of Chittagong' and other vessels at anchor in the River Hoogli (BHC1100)
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