'The Delhi Book' of Thomas Metcalfe
In 1844 the daughters of Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe received a
gift from their father. While working in India as the Governor-General's
Agent at the Imperial court of the Mughal Emperor, Metcalfe assembled
an album containing 120 paintings by Indian artists. He wrote
own descriptive text alongside these paintings, and sent the precious
'Delhi Book' to his children in England. This cherished possession
remained in the family for almost 150 years.
Included in the Delhi Book is a spectacular painting showing the
Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah (1838-58), proceeding in state to celebrate
the Muslim 'Id festival. Metcalfe accompanied the Emperor on this
procession, and can be seen riding atop an elephant. Most of the
Delhi Book's paintings show monuments and houses in Delhi, some
of which are no longer standing. Other entries include a portrait
of the Mughal Emperor, and an Urdu poem composed by the Emperor
and dedicated to Metcalfe.
The British Library recently
acquired the Delhi Book with the generous assistance of the National
Art Collections Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a fascinating
document on one man's life in 19th Century Delhi, and a wonderful
addition to the British Library's collections of Company Drawings.
It is on display in the British Library until 1 October 2003.
Bibliography: Kaye, Mary M. The Golden Calm. Exeter: Webb
& Bower, 1980.
Shah: The Last Mughal Emperor of India
Houses in Delhi,
Drawings in the British Library