This dissertation explores the complex entanglements of an artistic
traffic between two distinct 'visual economies' in eastern India, c.1772-c.1795.
Both late Mughal and early colonial cultures were undergoing transformation, to
the extent that during this era the nascent colonial artistic diaspora collapsed.
Three inter-related areas will be interrogated: the prestation and commercial
circulation of imagery between London, Calcutta and Murshidabad, the
dichotomies of political and aesthetic spheres, and colonial representations of
late Mughal culture as embroiled by such frameworks.
Chapter one examines India-painted subjects in a metropolitan aesthetic
sphere, thus acting as crucial juxtaposition for the refiguration of British art in
Calcutta, which is the subject of the following section. Hastings' regime wielded
British art as part of an intensely spectacular colonial governmentality, but his
successor Cornwallis, took a tougher line with devastating effect. A diversity of
competing, derivative idioms ousted professional colonial painting forever; its
artistic schema penetrated to 'grass-roots' level through the creation of a
'Company School' which transposed the practice of the patua caste.
Chapters five to seven investigate nawabi perceptions of British imagery.
Hastings introduced the gifting of large-scale portraits; artefacts ill-suited to
Indian interiors and aesthetic interiority - perhaps not even viewed as 'art'. The
final chapter, through representations of the nawabs of Murshidabad and
Lucknow, traces the evolution of British pictures as accoutrements of Mughal
sovereignty. By 1795 both courts possessed permanent if 'hybrid' expositions of
colonial imagery which transgressed established Indian and British
classifications, as well as indicating more profound redefinitions of Indian
comportment, consumption and taste.
The intersection of 'visual economies' by way of an exploration of
diverse zones of transculturation and processes of translation, provides a vital
lens for recovering Indian and British agency - both elite and subaltern, in the
oft-uneasy formation of a colonial aesthetic forum