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Watercolours

Kashmiri Gate, Delhi. After September 1857.

Watercolour on paper. 260 x 350mm. (10.25 x 13.75ins). After September 1857.

This double gate was originally constructed by the army engineer Robert Smith in 1835. It was the scene of fierce fighting during the 'Indian Mutiny' of 1857 and the recapture of Delhi from the sepoys. John Nicholson led the assault on the city and it was at the Kashmiri Gate on 14 September, that he finally succeeded in breeching the city's defences. However, while urging on his exhausted troops to clear the city ramparts as far as the Lahore Gate, he turned his back on the enemy and was shot. He died nine days later.

Sir John Lawrence wrote in his Mutiny Report:" Brigadier-General John Nicholson is now beyond human praise and human reward. But so long as British rule shall endure in India, his fame can never perish. He seems especially to have been raised up for this juncture. He crowned a bright, though brief, career by dying of the wound he received in the moment of victory at Delhi. The Chief Commissioner does not hesitate to affirm that without John Nicholson Delhi could not have fallen."

The condition of the gate in this fine watercolour clearly identifies that it was drawn subsequent to the breeching of the city's defences in September 1857.

In nineteenth century India, British officers were often skilled draftsmen, and in their passing out exams were required to show a high level of proficiency. This skill was necessary for the maintenance of miltary logs to which illustration added an extra dimension. Watercolours and drawings were frequently produced during military manoeuvres, using whatever materials, sketchpads etc. that were immediately to hand. Many have considerable artistic merit and also topographical interest. They were frequently unsigned.

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