Ruins of the Palace, Madura [Madurai]

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The composition of Thomas Daniell’s Ruins of the Palace, Madura not only layers the past upon the present through the cleverly crafted view of the presumably new and British-built structure through the gaping and crumbling arch of the Hindu palace, but also the familiar upon the exotic or foreign, through the insertion of a group of sketch-pad laden European tourists (the artist himself included) into the Indian hillside. The intersection of the colonized and the colonizer is further enhanced through the actual techniques used to produce the image. Upon their arrival in Calcutta, the Daniells sought the assistance of Bengalese artists to master the coloring technique of aquatinting. In a letter dated November 7, 1788, Thomas writes to Ozias Humphry, stating that “‘[a]t length I have completed twelve views of Calcutta. The fatigue I have experienced in this undertaking has almost worn me out. . . . It will appear a very poor performance in your land, I fear. You must look upon it as a Bengalee work’” (qtd. in M. Archer, Early Views 15). Despite their reliance on native artistry to complete their work, the Daniells remained committed to the ideals of the traditional European picturesque. According to De Almeida and Gilpin in Indian Renaissance, by “[u]sing their camera obscura from a carefully chosen outlook, the Daniells could locate and frame a scene with the necessary foreground, middle ground, and background that would make it appropriately ‘picturesque’” (190).