View full screen - View 1 of Lot 6. A Bay Racehorse with a Groom, signed by Shaykh Muhammad Amir of Karraya, Company School, Calcutta, circa 1842.
6

A Bay Racehorse with a Groom, signed by Shaykh Muhammad Amir of Karraya, Company School, Calcutta, circa 1842

VAT reduced rate

Estimate:

30,000 to - 50,000 GBP

A Bay Racehorse with a Groom, signed by Shaykh Muhammad Amir of Karraya, Company School, Calcutta, circa 1842

A Bay Racehorse with a Groom, signed by Shaykh Muhammad Amir of Karraya, Company School, Calcutta, circa 1842

Estimate:

30,000 to - 50,000 GBP

Lot sold:

37,800

GBP

pencil, watercolour and gum arabic on paper, signed ''Shekh Mohamud Ameer./ Calcutta. at Karyah'' in the lower right border


36.8 by 49.5 cm. (14 ½ by 19 ½ in.)

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"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

Niall Hobhouse, London
Christie's, London, 26 April 2012, lot 352
Niall Hobhouse et al., Indian Paintings for British Patrons 1770-1860, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, exhibition catalogue, London, 1991, no.19
Niall Hobhouse, Indian Painting for the British 1780-1880, Walpole Gallery, exhibition catalogue, London, 2001, no.24
Indian Paintings for British Patrons 1770-1860, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, exhibition catalogue, London, 27 February - 28 March 1991
Indian Painting for the British 1780-1880
, Walpole Gallery, London, May 2001
The present painting is by Shaykh Muhammad Amir, a resident of Karraya (Curriah) in the Ballygunge district of south Calcutta. Muhammad Amir was one of the most prolific and talented artists working in Calcutta in the 1830s and 40s. It is quite likely that he migrated to Calcutta from Patna or Murshidabad in the late eighteenth century having trained as an artist in the miniature painting tradition.

Our painting can be dated based on another almost identical version of this composition, formerly in the collection of the author V.S. Naipaul, signed by the artist in a similar manner and dated 1842 (illus. in Dalrymple 2019, cat.no.68). Muhammad Amir is known to have made at least three paintings of this bay stallion, depicted with its distinctive single white sock and its reins held by the same groom. The stallion is shown blinkered in the third version (ibid., p.128).

Most of Muhammad Amir’s paintings from the 1830s depict well-known views of Calcutta as well as the houses, carriages and palanquins, household servants, horses and dogs of British residents, reflecting the life and times of the capital of British India. Paintings of racehorses were very popular, a subject he returned to throughout his career. The horse and groom would often be depicted outside the stables or at the starting post, as illustrated in the present painting. The background would be views of the Calcutta Maidan or the banks of the River Hooghly with large clouds in the sky. 

One of his earliest known works is a large panoramic view of Government House and Esplanade Row in Calcutta as seen from the Maidan, dated to between 1827 and 1830 (British Library, Add.Or.4151). He also produced an album of paintings in the mid-1830s for the Calcutta businessman Thomas Holroyd (1799-1893) of No.5 Park Street, Chowringhee. The album was donated to the Oriental Club in London in 1839 and subsequently sold in 1961. A painting of Thomas Holroyd reading in his palanquin by Muhammad Amir, previously in the collection of Edwin Binney 3rd, is now in the San Diego Museum of Art (1990.1787; illus. in Harris 2019, p.124). Another version of this painting, formerly in the Stuart Cary Welch Collection, sold in these rooms, 31 May 2011, lot 129. His most accomplished works are thought to have been painted in the 1840s. These large-scale album albums depicting life in Calcutta’s grand estates are now dispersed between the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum and various private collections. For further discussion on these works, see ibid., pp.124-5.

The figures in Muhammad Amir’s paintings were drawn from the staff of Calcutta households or depicted the locals of Karraya. Sets of paintings depicting trades and occupations were produced in large amounts by his studio. The English traveller Fanny Parks acquired one such set in Calcutta in 1844, from which she used four illustrations in her memoir Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque in 1850.

For comparable illustrations of a horse held by a groom, see Archer 1972, fig.30; Hobhouse 1991, no.20; Galloway 2005, no.15; and Ray 2015, no.68. A painting with a groom in blue dress holding two white carriage horses is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Dalrymple 2019, cat.no.67).

Additional works by the artist include paintings in the British Library (Archer 1972, col.pl.B; no.59, 60(i-iii), 61(i-xvii); fig.28,29); the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Archer 1992, no.80, 81, pp.103-4); and the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC (Dalrymple, ibid., cat.no.67, 71.). For further published works, see Welch 1973, no.73, p.123; and Welch 1978, no.23, p.71.