614 x 734 x 138 in. (15.9 x 19.7 x 3.5 cm.)
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Lot Essay

The album appears to have belonged to a Mrs. Eleanor Hardwick, who’s signature is displayed on the first page alongside the date 31 October 1850. Handwritten notes, prints and drawings throughout the album are variously dated between the first few years of the 19th century through the end of the century. While not much is known about Mrs. Hardwick, she apparently was not a public figure, the contents of the album offer a very personal glimpse into her life. She fancied poetry, the first few pages of the album comprising verses she drafted about her life and loved ones, in addition to the works of other poets who’s words she transcribed. The album also demonstrates a clear interest in fashion, much of the album comprising colored engravings from 19th century couture publications, and a curiosity about the world, most clearly highlighted by the fantastic set of Company School Paintings embedded within the early pages, as well as drawings and prints from throughout Europe and the Americas. In total, there are 22 fine Company School paintings, including architectural studies and portraits of local characters, one pencil sketch of the Northwest Territories, 11 European water colors of various subjects, and 57 prints, largely taken from fashion sources.
Throughout the 19th century, after Delhi and Agra were captured by the British, Indian artists began producing great numbers of detailed studies of the monuments of India for new visitors to the area. These studies were usually composed in a smaller size that was more practical to pack and carry. It fast became commonplace for European visitors to collect views of Indian monuments to take as souvenirs back home. It is unclear how Mrs. Hardwick acquired these particular paintings, whether she had traveled to India at any point, or if someone close to her had presented them as a gift. Her handwriting, however, is present beneath each architectural view, inscribing the locations and details of the Mughal monuments.
Though the album includes material from throughout the 19th century, the Company paintings were likely completed around the middle of the century, bearing close stylistic resemblance to a group of Mughal monument paintings collected by the Victoria and Albert Museum (acc. nos. IS.477-489-1950), painted around 1840, and another series of such paintings attributed to Ghulam Ali Khan, circa 1852, sold at Bonhams London, 23 April 2013, lot 352. The paintings include many views of the interior and exterior of the Taj Mahal, executing the richly adorned pietra dura inlay with remarkable draftsmanship, and additional sites around the Delhi-Agra area, including the Mausoleum of Safdar Jung, the Qutub Minar, and the Agra Fort, inhabited here by British Officials. Similar albums depicting many of the same monuments have sold in recent years at Christie’s London, 28 October 2021, lot 59, and Christie’s London 27 April 2023, lot 107. The present example is smaller in scale compared to these examples, yet retains an impressive level of miniature detail.

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