Rachel Welland, nee Friell, was the niece of a senior East India Company official, John Boulau. Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1773, she married Abraham Welland, probably thanks to the uncle’s connections in India where she moved with her husband who was employed in the East India Company. A judge and magistrate in Patna, Abraham was also a patron of the arts and literature and it was under his protection that Maulana Khairuddin Muhammed, the historian of Shah Alam, wrote Tarikh-i Jaupur and Tarikh-i ul-Ulama (Askari 1960). He became a member of the Royal Asiatic Society to which donated a copy of the Shah Jahan (see the appendix in Royal Asiatic Society 1834). For further information on Abraham Welland see the Asiatic Journal and Monthly register for British India and its Dependencies, 1820, p.519 or S. Taylor, Storm and Conquest: the Battle for the Indian Ocean 1808-10, London, 2012.
The drawings can be dated between 1798 an 1804. Many are of botanical subject matter, and have at the bottom right corner Welland's name as well as the date when they were painted (see illustration). Interestingly, these are not limited to plants and flowers but include some studies of local costumes as well as two fine bird drawings (illustrated here). A drawing of a dancer bears a poem, which as far as we know is not recorded and could have been composed by Welland herself.
One of the most interesting aspects of this album is the variety in the subjects represented: alongside plants and flowers, common subject for the time, we find a large collection of musical instruments as well as depictions of locals playing them. Many watercolours depict scenes of everyday life or figures wearing colourful costumes which would have appeared unusual and 'exotic' in Britain.
By the first quarter of the nineteenth century the Wellands can be identified with an address connecting them to London and then Kent after leaving India, bringing back with them this substantial collection of drawings and watercolours from the Subcontinent.
A major exhibition of Company School painting entitled Forgotten Masterpieces of Indian Painting for the East India Company will take place at the Wallace Collection, London, between September 2019 and January 2020, curated by William Dalrymple.
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