Thomas Spears Esq.
Artist: Grant, Colesworthy (1813-1880)
Medium: Watercolour with pen and ink
Watercolour in pen and ink of Thomas Spears 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. 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) River to the royal capital at Amarapura. Grant was the official artist on the mission. In recognition of his skill, he was presented with a gold cup and ruby ring by the Burmese King.
Thomas Spears, a Scottish trader and authority on Burmese culture, had played an informal diplomatic role in the wake of the war and helped to negotiate the mission. Grant records that he was 'the only British merchant and resident at Umeerapoora; to whom the members of the mission were indebted for many valuable and friendly attentions. Mr. Spears has resided in Umeerapoora about eighteen years. He was a sufferer by the rebellion of 1852, and during nine months was kept a prisoner in irons. He is much respected by the King, and not less so by his countrymen, having at all times 'honorably maintained his character as an Englishman.'