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1 / Converging Cultures

Portrait of East India Company Official (probably William Fullerton)
Portrait of East India Company Official (probably William Fullerton)
Artist / Origin Dip Chand (Indian, active 18th c.)
Date 1760-63
Material Opaque watercolor on paper
Medium: Painting
Dimensions H: 10 ½ in. (26.2 cm.), W: 9 in. (22.7 cm.)
Location The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
Credit Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Art Resource, NY

expert perspective

Romita RayAssistant Professor of Art History, Syracuse University
Romita RayAssistant Professor of Art History, Syracuse University

Portrait of East India Company Official (probably William Fullerton)

» Dip Chand (Indian, active 18th c.)

expert perspective

Romita Ray Romita Ray Assistant Professor of Art History, Syracuse University

The British arrive in India in the early part of the seventeenth century, at least according to records, and they’re primarily merchants. They come to trade. We have records of them in the Mughal emperor’s court at the time. And over time, they build what is called the East India Company, which is chartered by Queen Elizabeth and it’s given the rights to trade with India. So that’s when we see them arrive. And they start establishing their presence in very key areas of India because they know that they have to compete with the Portuguese who are already there. They certainly have to compete with the Dutch. Over time, they also have to compete with the French.

So initially, we see a mercantile body. Then, over time, that develops by the eighteenth century into a more aggressive body that actually has its own army, that does acquire land, that protects its rights in India. By the early nineteenth century, we begin to see, especially, a greater interest in governance. Now this begins, of course, in the eighteenth century in the sense that they learn specific languages which allow for them to understand the judiciary system, for instance. They also understand how to transact with merchants. In order to grab the markets they have to have some measure of control over the laws, for instance, that rule those markets.” 

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