European commission of Indian Muraqqa’. The collections Gentil, Johnson, Polier and Clive
This paper comes from a lecture I gave in 2011 during the “journée de l’école doctorale”, a day organized by the Archaeology and Art History department of the Sorbonne University for Ph.D. candidates to talk about their ongoing research.
At that time I was in my first year and this lecture was an introduction to a subject that I developed further in my dissertation, and on which I still work to this day.
Jean-Baptiste Gentil, Antoine-Louis Polier, Richard Johnson and Robert Clive lived in India during the 18th century, where they were employed by trade companies or European governments to defend their interests and try to gain new trade deals and territories.
All four stopped in the Awadh region, ruled by the nawab Shuja ud-Dawla (1754-1775) from the capital city Faizabad, then by his son Asaf ud-Dawla (1775-1797) in Lucknow. Robert Clive doesn’t seem to have commissioned any paintings nor albums but several volumes are linked to his name. Gentil, Johnson and Polier, on the other hand, hired painters and professional of the arts of the book to produce albums of paintings documenting life in India as well as their own interests. These albums are inspired from Mughal muraqqa’ but the content and layout have been transformed to fit new tastes.
As well, the marginal decoration reflects the evolution of tastes, as well as the shift of production practices.