Sunday, June 23, 2013

Painting of the Day: A “Company” Portrait of King George V, 1911

Company Painting
King George V, 1911
The Victoria & Albert Museum
I like this painting. It’s probably because I have a particular affinity for King George V, but nevertheless, it’s a charming, if not rough, portrait. We see King George V sans crown, wearing a red tunic with gold epaulettes, a blue sash and many stars and garter badges, his left hand rests on his sword hilt.

This is a “Company Painting” created around the time of the 1911 Coronation. The painting is based on an illustration in a magazine, probably one issued to commemorate George’s Coronation on 22 June, 1911 or, perhaps, the Delhi durbar, which took place during the official State Visit of George V and Queen Mary, in the following December

“Company Paintings” were produced by Indian artists for Europeans living and working in the Indian subcontinent, and especially for British employees of the East India Company. Such paintings show a fusion of traditional Indian artistic styles with the sensibilities of Western art. Some Company paintings were specially commissioned, while others were made to be sold at bazaars. That accounts for the slightly rough nature of the portrait. It’s more iconographic than it is photographic, owing to the style of Indian painters of the time. But, somehow, that makes it charming as it is truly a representation of the amassed ingenuity of the British Empire of the early Twentieth Century.

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