‘A Lady’s Dressing Room in Calcutta’, Rare hand-coloured lithograph, dated 1813
Rare hand-coloured lithograph, titled ‘A Lady’s Dressing Room in Calcutta’, depicting a white woman attended by a group of very dark skinned Indian women, including one nursing a white baby, one with a ‘hookha’ pipe, another two with food & drink vessels, set in a room with large louvered window, with two oval mirrors on the pale-blue walls, titled beneath:
“London Pubd. 1813 by Willm. Holland, Cocksure Street, of whom may be had a humorous Collection of East & West India Caricatures”
Work: 35 x 25cm
An interesting British view of the Indian Colonial experience; William Holland was a Georgian engraver & publisher, active circa 1790-1820 and covering a lot of the political satire that his contemporaries like Crookshank did. This view was probably humorous to the Georgian mind in that it was so foreign, and while Africans were not unusual in the Georgian society, the dark-skinned Indians shown here are meant to be novelties. What he actually does is creates an interesting historical record; there is another in the same theme (unsighted) and Holland has obviously used a sketch made by a visitor to Calcutta in the late 18th/early 19th century period as a basis for his lithograph. The details are therefore quite accurate, with the round ottoman seats probably woven cane, the low furniture indicating traditional floor-level dining, and the various cooking utensils are all traditional Indian – even the hookha pipe the figure at the right is sampling is a traditional Indian item. The European parts of the interior are the oval mirrors on the wall, and the early 19th century English glass bottle on the table – as well as most probably whatever is contained within the closed boxes.
An example in the Yale University Collection:
An example in the British Museum: