The Bengal levee

description below“Lord Cornwallis holds a levee in Government House, Calcutta, in a large room divided by a panelled partition which stretches across the design from left to right and is broken by three wide doorways, showing an inner room, crowded with guests, with three large windows between which are pier-glasses in ornate frames. In the spaces between the doorways are four candle-sconces placed above four of Thomas Daniell’s ‘Views of Calcutta’, either the originals or (more probably) the aquatints. [Published by him at Calcutta 1786-8, reproduced in W. Corfield’s ‘Calcutta Faces and Places’. Cf. also ‘Memoirs of William Hickey’, iii. 327, 342.] In the nearer portion of the room the figures are dispersed; Cornwallis stands in the inner room on the right, his right hand on his breast, left in his breeches pocket. He is talking to Cudbert Thornhill, a grotesque-looking civilian who faces him in profile to the right. Behind Thornhill, waiting to approach Cornwallis, is King Collins wearing regimentals. Behind this group is a crowd of unidentified guests. The figures in the foreground (left to right) are: Lt.-Col. Alexander Ross, secretary to Cornwallis, who is talking to Colonel John Fullarton, senior officer at the Presidency (‘East India Kalendar’, 1791, p. 14). Next, a stout civilian, with legs thick to deformity, holds both hands of a very slim and foppish civilian; they are John Haldane and Claud Benizett, [Identified by Wright and Evans as John Wilton.] Sub-Treasurer. The centre figures are a very stout colonel talking to a thin and grotesque civilian holding a long cane; both wear spectacles. They are Colonel Auchmuty and William Pye, Collector of the Twenty-four Pergunnahs. A grotesquely ugly little civilian, standing alone in profile to the left, taking snuff, is W. C. Blaquiere. [Identified by Wright and Evans] On the extreme right an obese man and a cadaverously thin man, both civilians, take each other’s hands in an affected manner; they are Robert MacFarlane, Clerk of the Market, and John Miller, Deputy of Police. From MacFarlane’s pocket hangs a long paper: ‘Price Current Calcutta Market Grain Rice Bran Paddy Agent’. Behind Pye stands the Rev. Thomas Blanshard, a very stout man in profile to the left with his hands behind his back. Behind him a civilian grasps the hands of a Greek priest wearing robes and a high hat. They are Edward Tiretta of the Bazaar and Father Parthanio. …”–British Museum online catalogue.

  • Printmaker: Gillray, James, 1756-1815, printmaker.
  • Title: The Bengal levee [graphic] / etch’d by Js. Gillray, from an original drawing made on the spot by an amateur.
  • Publication: London : Publish’d Novr. 9th, 1792, by Js. Gillray, Chealsea, & by H. Humphrey, No. 18 Old Bond Street, [9 November 1792]

Catalog Record 

792.11.09.01++ Impression 2

Acquired November 2019

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