5. A Group of Finely Modelled Clay Figures

India | c. 1825

First half of 19th Century.

10 figures approx. 9”(23cms) high; 2 figures approx. 5” (13cm) high.

Each figure representing a trade or occupation, the bodies of clay, clothed in cloth or linen, ten raised on terracotta bases while the Snake Charmer group and Brahmin group are on wood bases.

Made by native craftsmen in Bengal, an area where figurative modelling flourished from the early 18th Century, these naturalistic figures are representations of life and culture during Colonial rule. Each bears a handwritten description of trade, occupation or ethnic group as follows:-

Parsee, Ayah, Ghoorwallah (groom), Bheestie (water carrier), Snake Charmer, Hammal, Darnda (fisherman), Brahmin praying, Peon (messenger), Butler Sahbib, Female water carrier, Fakir (Holy man).

A set of six figures ,although smaller and less animated, sold in Christie’s South Kensington (7/10/09), Lot 81, Ismail Merchant Collection, £3,850.

Sadly, we will probably never know the name of this simple native artist who has displayed such genius in captivating the character and personalities of his subjects. Suffice to say that these figures provide an accurate historical record of day to day life during the 18th and early 19th centuries in Northern India.

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