PROPERTY FROM THE 'PARLBY ALBUM'
The following six lots come from the Parlby album, a collection of natural and architectural watercolours and gouaches assembled in Bengal, probably Maidapur, during the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century by the wife of James Parlby, Louisa.
Colonel James Parlby was an engineer and employee of the East India Company. Initially he was in charge of the roads in the area of Bengal and later of the embankments for the Division of Murshidabad and of the development of the old Nawabi capital. He married Louisa in 1795 and together they had five children. Louisa returned to England sometime after 1801, where she died in 1808, while James remained in India until his death in 1826. Thanks to inscriptions found on several album pages (for example the L. Parlby visible on the top right of lot 106), we can deduce that the album was likely to have been assembled by James’ wife, rather than his daughter (see Llewellyn-Jones 2017, p.42). The album it is not listed in the inventory of effects auctioned after James’ death, so we can hypothesise that Louisa brought the album back to England. Part of the paintings originally in the Parlby album later joined the collection of Lieutenant Colonel James Chicheley Hyde (1787-1867) and Richard, Marquess Wellesley (1760-1842), now in the British Library.
The album contained a wide variety of subjects. Many pages depict houses and palaces, some built under James’ supervision (many are published in Llewellyn-Jones 2017), while ten album pages (lots 102, 103 and 107) depict natural drawings of birds, flowers, turtles and snakes, very much in line with the fashion of the time of recording and collecting exotic flora and fauna encountered in India (the album of Lady Impey is probably the most famous example of this fashion). Other gouaches depict Indian architectural settings (for example lots 105 and 106), indigenous people (lot 104), or local festivals.
There are no artists' signatures but numerous inscriptions added by the owners are usually found on the reverse. The style of these watercolours can be considered as part of the Murshidabad School, named after the former capital of Bengal, which reached its peak between 1717 and 1782, until the East India Company moved their administrative base to Calcutta. Some of the artists who were active in Murshidabad moved to Calcutta and painted for the English society (for an extensive discussion on patronage in this period see Llewellyn-Jones 2017, p.44-48).
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