Three Burmese Infantry Soldiers
Artist: Grant, Colesworthy (1813-1880)
Medium: Watercolour with pen and ink
Watercolour with pen and ink of three Burmese infantry soldiers 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 of Burmese and Europeans and documents the British embassy to the Burmese King, Mindon Min (r.1853-1878). The soldiers carry rifles and their thighs are tattooed in traditional Burmese fashion.
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, with the aim of persuading King Mindon to sign a treaty formally acknowledging the extension of British rule over the province. The mission travelled from Rangoon (Yangon) up the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River to the royal capital of Amarapura in central Burma. Grant was the official artist of the mission. In recognition of his skill, the Burmese King presented him with a gold cup and ruby ring.
Grant wrote that: 'The three men here represented...were picked out of the guard of six hundred attached to the Residency...Vigorous and powerfully formed men, and, as is well known, very far from wanting in courage...Their arms comprise a flint musket, without bayonet, and the 'Dhar' or sword worn on the back of the left shoulder. Their cartridges are carried in bandoliers, forming a belt round the waist. The ordinary Burmese Government custom of payment, not by salaries but by grants of land, appears to exist in the army, as in other branches of the state. Fields or districts are assigned to the soldiers, the value of which is assumed to be as good as Ten Roopees per month.'