View of Benares
Shivala Ghat, Benares
British Library WD1295
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This is a fine watercolour view of Benares in northern India by the topographical artist Thomas Daniell (1749-1840).
Thomas Daniell and his nephew William (1769-1837) travelled extensively through India from 1786 to 1793, 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.
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 Thomas 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.