This is a fine watercolour view of Benares (Varanasi) in northern India by the topographical artist William Daniell (1769-1837).
William Daniell (1769-1837) travelled extensively through India from 1786 to 1793 with his uncle Thomas Daniell, making thousands of sketches and watercolour drawings which they planned, on their return to England, to turn into aquatints. The resulting 144 plates of their 'Oriental Scenery' were published in London between 1795 and 1808. The drawing is on wove paper (which the Daniells did not use in north India) and is no doubt preparatory to the oil of the subject exhibited by William at the Royal Academy in 1802.
Benares is one of the most ancient of Indian cities, situated on the holy river Ganges in northern India. The Daniells visited the picturesque city twice, in 1788 and again in 1789, when this watercolour would have been worked on by William Daniell. It is not one which was eventually published as an aquatint. It shows the Shivala Ghat on the western side of the city bathed in an evening light, with many pleasure boats including a morpunki, a gondola with peacock prow.
The riverside palace was where the last independent Raja of Benares, Chait Singh, had been kept imprisoned in 1781, on the command of Warren Hastings.
- Article by:
- Douglas Fordham
Douglas Fordham looks at the complex role printed illustrations played in the making, meaning, and marketing of British travel literature in the 18th and 19th century.