The Great Bell at Mengoon
Artist: Grant, Colesworthy (1813-1880)
Medium: Watercolour with pen and ink
Watercolour with pen and ink of the Mingun Bell at Mingun from 'A Series of Views in Burmah taken during Major Phayre’s Mission to the Court of Ava in 1855' by Colesworthy Grant. This album consists of 106 landscapes and portraits of Burmese and Europeans documenting the British embassy to the Burmese King, Mindon Min (r.1853-1878).
The mission took place after the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852 and the annexation by the British of the Burmese province of Pegu (Bago). It was despatched by the Governor-General of India Lord Dalhousie on the instructions of the East India Company, to attempt to persuade King Mindon to sign a treaty formally acknowledging the extension of British rule over the province. The mission started out from Rangoon and travelled up the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) to the royal capital at Amarapura. Grant (1813-1880) was sent as the official artist of the mission. In recognition of his skill, he was presented with a gold cup and ruby ring by the Burmese King.
Mingun, a short distance north of Amarapura on the opposite bank of the Irrawaddy, is best known for its immense and incomplete stupa begun by King Bodawpaya (r.1782-1819). Its famous bell was commissioned by Bodawpaya in 1808. After the earthquake that reduced the stupa to rubble in 1838, the bell was positioned close to the river.
Grant wrote that: 'In full keeping with the Temple is the monster Bell which was intended for it. On first view of this surprising object it was anticipated that more than a rival had been found for the Great Bell of Moscow. It proved short, however, but ranks as the next largest Bell in the world. It measures sixteen feet and three inches across the mouth or rim, and its weight, according to pretty general agreement, is about ninety tons. The enormity of its actual appearance will be gathered by comparison with the human figures standing on the platform...'