Ruins of the Palace, Madura [Madurai]
The ruins of an elaborate entrance to the Palace at Madurai dominate the left register of the picture plane. Intricate stonework and molding decorates the inside of the edifice, while the outside is crumbling and has been over-run with moss and hanging plants. Two bulls graze to the left of this structure. Newer buildings can be seen through the gaping hole in the ruin, as well as the figure of a man holding what appears to be a rifle. The rocky ground slopes gently upward to the left from the right corner of the canvas, and on the hill the Daniell party can be seen at work under a large parasol. They themselves become a part of a picturesque scene as they sketch the appealing but otherwise incomprehensible ruins of Madurai. In the far right corner, barely visible to the naked eye, are two figures seemingly dressed in the fashion of the Indian natives. They are standing before a part of the palace that is in much better condition than the principle edifice.
Copyright, 2009, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
T 420 (Folio C) Vol. II, pl. 17
Ruins of the Palace, Madura was bound in Oriental Scenery (London 1797), a text that was published in six parts and which featured 114 colored aquatints and 6 uncolored engraved title pages. This particular painting appeared in Volume II, with the engraved title Oriental Scenery: Twenty-four Views in Hindoostan [taken in the year 1792]; Drawn by Thomas Daniell and engraved by himself and William Daniell; and with permission respectfully dedicated to the Right Honourable Henry Dundas, one of His Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State, President of the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, Treasurer of the Navy, &c, &c.
The Daniells' Tours of India
Thomas Daniell and his nephew, William, first traveled to India in 1784. A relatively unknown artist, Daniell was drawn to the Indian landscape as an opportunity to explore the new categories of “the sublime,” “the picturesque,” and “the exotic” that were becoming valued in art and were constantly being refined and redefined by English artists. He also hoped to find employment abroad, as the British domestic art market was being flooded with landscape painters. According to the terms of his agreement with the East India Company, whose Court of Directors agreed to commission both Daniell and his nephew, Daniell was required “to publish twelve views of Calcutta at twelve gold Mohurs the set, from complete plates and finished watercolours,” a contract that was advertised in the Calcutta Chronicle on 17 July 1786 and later on 4 January 1787. After finishing the views of Calcutta, the Daniells embarked on a tour of the upper-country, a trip that may have been catalyzed by William Hodges’s Select Views, a collection of Indian landscapes that not only gave Daniell a clear idea of how his work could be used, but also fueled his desire to “outdo” Hodges by finding “the tombs, mosques, temples, and picturesque scenes that he had depicted and to make a more impressive and more accurate record of those same places” (Archer 37).
British Imperialism in India
The British presence increased exponentially in India during the late eighteenth century and afterwards, initially in the form of implicit government support for the commercial and political power of the East India Company and eventually as an explicitly imperial presence. The East India Company, founded in the seventeenth century, primarily aimed to establish trade with India, but soon became interested in acquiring territory as well. After a power shift in India, the East India Company gradually extended British rule over the territories, facilitating trade with the rest of Asia (Trotter 13). Artists like Daniell depicted these regions and so provided the British population with views of the otherwise unfamiliar, distant lands of the British Empire (De Almeida 183-99).
William Daniell (1769-1837)
At the age of fifteen, William Daniell accompanied his uncle, Thomas Daniell, on his tour through India and the East, serving as an assistant and apprentice. He continued to work in printmaking, becoming a successful aquatinter and etcher (Eaton, “Daniell, William”).
William Hodges (1744-1797)
The British landscape artist, William Hodges, a predecessor of Daniell, also traveled to India in 1779. He spent six years there, producing several engravings of Indian life and architecture that influenced the British perspective on India’s culture and history (Cust).
The East India Company (1600-1873)
The East India Company, or the English East India Company, was established to facilitate trade between Great Britain and Asia; however, by the eighteenth century, interests had turned to imperialism and expanding the British Empire in the East. The East India Co., to whom Oriental Scenery is dedicated, granted Daniell permission to travel and work in India under the pretense of solely working as an engraver; the Company, however, ensured that this type of consent was difficult to attain in order to deter a mad rush of painters to the East (Hardie 134).
Madras was the first piece of territory to be owned and administered by the English in India. The East India Company’s agent at Masulipatam received an offer for a grant of land from a local Naik, just north of the Portuguese settlement of San Thomé on the Coromandel coast in 1639. This offer was accepted by an official of the company, Francis Day, and the town of Madras was established in a few years. Fort George, the first British stronghold in India, was founded in 1641, and served to protect Madras. After the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 and a land contest between the French and the British, British supremacy in the South of India was firmly established and Madras became a site of political dominance.
Madurai is the oldest city on the Indian peninsula, with a cultural heritage that goes as far back as 2500 years. The entire city is built around a Temple and is composed of rectangular streets, a specific design meant to symbolize the structure of the cosmos (Singh 1080).The Palace at Madura
After replenishing their funds, Thomas and William Daniell began their exploration of South India, an area which was virtually unmentioned in existing travel guides. In a journal entry dated 3 July 1792, Daniells writes that he and his entourage “‘Breakfasted at Tappacallum & went to the Old Palace near the Rampart inside the Fort, where we propose remaining during our stay at Madura’” (qtd. in Archer 170). He further writes:
The Palace of Madura is said to be principally the work of Tremal Naig, rajah of Madura; at least it may be supposed to have been repaired and beautified by him, who was an Hindoo prince of considerable power and wealth, as appears by the many edifices attributed to him in this neighborhood. In this building appears a great mixture of the Hindoo and Mahommedan styles of architecture, a circumstance not so frequently occurring in this part of India, as on the banks of the Ganges. (qtd. in M. Archer 170)The palace had been built by Tirumala Nayyak (c.1636) and was already in a state of decay when Daniell first saw it. In 1858, a letter written by Lord Napier, Governor of Madras, catalyzed the partial restoration of the edifice, and it was eventually reconstructed in 1871-82 (Archer 170). The section of the palace that is depicted in Ruins of the Palace, Madura, is the west side of the palace, where a few buildings had been repaired to be used “by the garrison, as granaries, store-houses, powder magazines, etc” (Daniell 33). The whole area has now been restored, including the missing finials, originally covered in gold, which formed the roof of the oblong pavilion.
The Royal Academy
Daniell was a member of the Royal Academy, which encouraged the development of British art. The Academy exhibited Daniell's works both before and after the success of his representations of India (Eaton, “Daniell, Thomas”).
Daniell, Thomas. View of the Fort, Madura (Oriental Scenery 14)
---. An Hindoo Temple, at Madura (Oriental Scenery 16)
---. Tremal Naig’s Choultry, Madura (Oriental Scenery 18)
---. Part of the Palace, Madura (Oriental Scenery 13)
---. Interior View of the Palace, Madura(Oriental Scenery 15)
This image depicts the ruins of the palace at Madurai, the oldest city in India. The palace itself was erected in 1636, and is represented here against a new, British-built structure that constitutes the background of the painting.
Ruin. Picturesque. British. Historical consciousness. History. Landscape. Place. Tourism. Travel. British in India. Colonialism. Empire. English India. Nation. Nationalism. Orientalism.
The composition of Thomas Daniell’s Ruins of the Palace, Madura not only layers the past upon the present by cleverly creating a view of the presumably new and British-built structure through the gaping and crumbling arch of the Hindu palace, but also layers the familiar upon the exotic or foreign by inserting a group of European tourists (the artist himself included) into the Indian hillside. This image is also significant for its depiction of British imperialism. This view of the old Hindu civilization that the British (and the Moghuls before them) have displaced suggests the theme of British progress in Madras and other parts of India. By placing himself and his party in the scene—as well as the distant figure seen through the crumbling archwaye—Daniell inserts British influence into the Hindu past, implying that the old civilization is now presided over and protected by the new, British one. The grazing bulls featured in the left register of the painting, positioned at an almost perfect diagonal from the painter and his party, present a more pastoral or domesticated version of the Hindu idol, the Great Bull, whose shrine at Tanjore is the subject of another Daniell print.
Thomas Daniell was one of the first Europeans to travel extensively in and document India, gaining him a reputation as the "artist-adventurer." While there, he and his nephew created hundreds of drawings and watercolors, depicting Mughal and Dravidian monuments, Indian architecture and culture, cityscapes, and sublime views of mountains and waterfalls. These works were popular among both European and Indian patrons. From his drawings, Daniell published Oriental Scenery in 1795: containing 144 hand-colored aquatint views of India, it was widely admired for its color-printed documentation of the country and its culture (De Almeida 105, 183-85). It gave a glimpse of the eastern world to Europeans, who were interested in this far-off land and its exotic nature. This desire for familiarity with foreign places was part of the general trend towards inquiry and research initiated in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and included a renewed interest in antiquities and ruins (Archer 12). The ruins depicted in the work contribute to an orientalist way of talking about India, not only by supporting a stereotypical view of India's vibrant, exotic culture, but also by construing Indian history as idyllic and pastoral. Consequently, the popularity of Daniell's work was promulgated by those who, fascinated by the distant and exotic East, hoped to follow his example by traveling to “record and then take possession of the new British India” (De Almeida 184).
Archer, Mildred. Early Views of India: The Picturesque Journeys of Thomas and William Daniell, 1786-1794. London: Thames and Hudson, 1980. Print.
---. India Observed: India as Viewed by British Artists, 1760-1860: An Exhibition Organized by the Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the Festival of India, 26 April-5 July 1982. London: Victoria and Albert Museum in association with Trefoil Books, 1982. Print.
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---. “Daniell, William (1769–1837).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. Oct. 2005. 20 Apr. 2009.
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---. Picturesque India: Sketches and Travels of Thomas and William Daniell. New Delhi: Lustre P, 1983. Print.
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Daniell, Thomas. Ruins of the Palace, Madura. 1795. Hand-colored aquatint. Plate: 19 x 25 ¾ in. (48.3 x 65.4 cm). Sheet: 21 ¼ x 29 3/16 in. (54.0 x 74.1 cm). Image: 16 ¾ x 23¾ in. (42.5 x 60.3 cm). Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. T 420 (Folio C) Vol. II, pl. 17.