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  5.6 NW Front of Government House, Calcutta, c1855  

©The British Library (OIOC), London
NW Front of Government House, Calcutta; c1855

Watercolour on paper
17 x 24 cm


ishop Heber, approaching Calcutta in 1823, described it as a 'city of palaces' and many splendid 18c and 19c buildings still stand, including the great Fort. This was completed in 1770, after 13 years work and a total expenditure of over 2m. It replaced the old Fort William. Following Pitt's India Act of 1784, British administration was centralised, and Calcutta, situated in the rich province of Bengal, became the centre of government. The old Company Presidencies of Madras (Fort George). Bombay, and Bengal (Fort William) ceased to exist.

It was to Calcutta, therefore, that Tipu's family were transferred from Vellore, after the 1806 rising. They built three mosques in the city, one in the suburb of Tollygunge (1835-43) and one (1842) in Chowringhee Square, where it stands today. The semi-circular windows and fan-shaped motifs are derived from the architecture of Robert Adam, one of Scotland's greatest architects. Adam's work also inspired the design of Government House (now Raj Bhavan), built for Lord Mornington between 1807 and 1814. The architect, Capt Charles Wyatt, based his design on that of Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, built by Robert Adam between 1759 and 1770.

The artist of this watercolour was also a Scot: Schetky was born in Edinburgh and studied under Alexander Nasmyth. He became painter in watercolour to the Duke of Clarence and Marine Painter in Ordinary to George IV and to Queen Victoria. He was never in India, but by the mid-nineteenth century when this watercolour was painted, he could refer to many engraved sources for views of the Indian capital, for example the published engravings of Thomas and William Daniell (1786), James Moffat (1798-1805) and the Scotsman James Baillie Fraser (1824)

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