'The Lord White Elephant'
Artist: Grant, Colesworthy (1813-1880)
Medium: Watercolour with pen and ink
Watercolour with pen and ink of the “Lord White Elephant”, a rare and auspicious white elephant kept by the King at Amarapura 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 documenting the British embassy to the Burmese King, Mindon Min (r.1853-1878). The mission started from Rangoon (Yangon) and travelled up the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River to the royal capital of Amarapura, founded in 1782. Grant (1813-1880) was sent as official artist of the mission and, in recognition of his skill, Grant was presented with a gold cup and ruby ring by the Burmese King.
Grant wrote that: 'This noble looking animal has lately died, and there is none, it is believed, to fill his place. He had occupied his late royal position for upwards of fifty years, and was said at the time of the Mission (September-October 1855) to be about 60 years old...and he was said, also, at the time, to be sickly, or out of condition. The eye, however, which was peculiar, was full of mischief: the king himself remarked that his temper had always been uncertain. He was ridden only by his mahout, who was invariably seated on his neck when visitors were expected. The colour of the animal was a cream or very light dun; his height was about ten feet, and his magnificent tusks nearly touched the ground...He was 'right royally caparisoned' in bands of crimson cloth or velvet and gold, studded with large bosses of gold...His ears were decorated with large silver tassels, and over his head he wore an ordinary cloth of gold, his costlier gear being reserved either for state occasions or for exhibition to visitors at such times. These collectively are delineated in a separate plate...Above his head was suspended a white canopy, the exclusive privilege and insignia of Royalty. Fastened to the pillars are seen his golden umbrellas, and near one of the windows, a white fringed umbrella, or canopy, and other ornamental items of furniture indicative of Royal rank and privilege. In the foreground are a variety of conic shaped vessels, glittering in gold and silver and mosaic; and near to them a gigantic jar of silver, containing water, all used either for drinking or bathing purposes.'