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  4.28 Col. Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821)  


©The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London
Col. Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821) with (left) his peon, Kistnaji; (right) his Jain pundit; and (behind) Cauvellery Ventak Letchmiah, his Telegu Brahmin pundit, c1825

Watercolour
45 x 30 cm

Unknown Artist

ackenzie, from the Outer Hebrides arrived in India in 1783 to join the Madras Army. His keen interest in mathematics had already been applied in connection with a biography of John Napier, the inventor of natural logarathims. For this, Mackenzie had studied the Hindu knowledge of mathematics, and with these skills, it was not long before he transferred from the infantry to the engineers. His career in India was a remarkable combination of geography, natural history, and active service. During the Third Mysore War, he was Aide de Corps to the Chief Engineer, and in the final Mysore War, he marched with the Nizam's forces. After the fall of Seringapatam, together with Thomas Fraser on survey duty, he made detailed drawings of the city and mapped the newly acquired terrritory of Mysore. 'I was provided with an establishment suited rather to an economic scale of expenditure than to so extensive an undertaking,' he recollected in 1817.

Mackenzie's surveys in South India took him to Amaravati, first in 1797 and again in 1816, and also to Sravanabelagola, the most sacred Jain pilgrimage site in South India. Mackenzie was probably the first European to record and measure the huge statue of Bahubali, which is clearly visible in the painting, on the skyline behind the figures. With Mackenzie are his Jain and Telegu Brahmin assistants, and on Mackenzie's left, holding a telescope, his peon, Kistnaji. With them, he collected and recorded innumerable details concerning every aspect of South Indian history, language, life and religion , resulting in possibly as many as 2,000 drawings and over 8,000 copies of inscriptions. Much of Mackenzie's 'general' collection was purchased from his executors: part was deposited with the India Office Library in London, and part was returned to India and the Tamil Nadu Government Oriental Manuscripts Library in Madras.

Benjamin Heyne, assistant to Buchanan on his Mysore Survey, records in his Journal, his visits to sites with Mackenzie : 'To Sautgur Hill (near Conjeeveram) with Mackenzie .of the Sienite they made formerly Canon balls of which many are found lying all over the Hill,' or at Nandydroog which was 'this morning Cloathed with a white fog, when the rest of the country was Clear. The country hereabouts pretty well cultivated. Yesterday morning was with Capt Mackenzie in the Fort, in which the Houses very few excepted, were empty. The Garden in it that was formerly famous is entirely neglected and nothing in it worth attention but a few apple and Coffee Trees.'

This anonymous early watercolour is a copy after the original oil by Thomas Hickey, the only portrait painter actually on the spot at Madras when Seringapatam fell. Other portraits painted by Hickey in India included those of the diarist William Hickey; Capt. William Kirkpatrick; Thomas Graham of Kinross; Tipu's Chief Minister, Purniya; Lt.Col William Kirkpatrick and a wonderful series of portrait drawings of British Officers and the sons and ministers of Tipu, drawn at Seringapatam and Madras in 1799 and 1800. From these portraits, Hickey intended to paint a series of seven History paintings related to the Mysore campaign, but these were never executed.


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