Francesco Renaldi's Portrait of a Mughal Lady | Expert Voices

London | 6 December 2023

‘One of the least known but highly sensitive portrait painters working in India in the late eighteenth century’. -Mildred Archer OBE

This jewel-toned portrait of a Mughal lady, signed and dated 1787, was painted during the short period that Francesco Renaldi based himself in Calcutta (now Kolkata) from 1786 until 1789. Although Renaldi was an English-born painter of Italian parentage, it appears that his years of activity in India – from 1786 to 1796 – were his most fruitful.

The Mughals were of Turco-Mongol and Persian descent and originated from central Asia. Having once ruled almost all of India, by the 1780s the Mughal dynasty was centred around Delhi in the north, having lost control of much of the rest of the sub-continent to the Maratha Empire. At the time that Renaldi travelled to India, there were several Mughal embassies to Calcutta, which by then was the centre of the British East India Company’s administration, seeking alliances with the British. As such, it is tenable to suggest that the present sitter could have been part of the entourage of one of these embassies.

This stunning and sensitive portrait is a highlight of the Old Master & 19th Century Paintings Evening Auction taking place at Sotheby's London on 6 December.

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