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  3.4 Purniya, Chief Minister of Mysore  

©Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven, Conneticut
Purniya, Chief Minister of Mysore; c1801

Oil on canvas
127 x 100.4 cm


urniya was a Brahmin Hindu, but served both Tipu and his father, Haidar Ali, before the Fall of Seringapatam in 1799. After Tipu's death, the British re-instated the ancient Hindu dynasty of the Wadeyars, and Purniya was appointed guardian of the young Rajah, then only four years old. Formerly Tipu's Chief Minister, he now became Diwan (Chief Minister) of Mysore, with an annual salary of 6,000 pagodas (2,400) and a bonus of 1% of the State Revenue. In Hickey's portrait, the bronze figure of Justice, with her balancing scales, alludes to Purniya's reputation for fairness and justice: his hand rests on a pile of petitions. The tall column symbolises his firmness of purpose, and the rich silk garment and regal shawl emphasise his dignity and status.

The artist, Thomas Hickey, was a professional, and had worked in India between March 1784 and January 1791, returning to England 'not overburdened with riches.' He joined Lord Macartney's embassy to China, 1792-94, and was drawn again to India in 1798. He was the only portrait painter on the spot when the Fourth Mysore War ended in 1799, and planned a related series of seven historical paintings. In preparation, between June 1799 and November 1801, he made at least 55 chalk drawings of the principal Indian and British participants, including Allan, Beatson, Baird, the young Krishnaraja Wadeyar III and Purniya. Work on numerous other commissions for oil portraits, including those of William Kirkpatrick and Richard Wellesley, eventually superceded his ambitious plan for history paintings. Hickey did use the drawings as references, for a series of 16 half - and three-quarter length portraits of Tipu's sons, courtiers and ministers, now in the Rashtrapavati Bhavan, New Delhi and the Victoria Memorial, Calcutta. During his final period at Madras, 1802-22, aged 75, Hickey painted the Scotsman, Colin Mackenzie, soldier of the Mysore Wars, who was to become India's first Surveyor General in 1817.

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