A Charming Small Primitive Watercolour Picture of an Early 19thC Family

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Origin: Probably English
Period: Late Nineteenth/Early Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1900
Canvas Height: 3.5 inches
Canvas Width: 5.5 inches
The Whole: 7.25 X 5.25 inches


The military themed watercolour of small proportions, painted primitively and depicting a family of seven including child and infant presented in its original and rather unusual wavy effect polychrome and glazed stained frame. The picture may well be company school, meaning that a local painter in India or China to sell to Europeans painted it. As such, it represents caricatures of what they thought colonists looked like, in this case an early nineteenth century English family.

The painting is apparently unsigned and in un-cleaned condition. The overall condition is original with one small tear to the bottom left.

The naïve and primitive execution of the painting is charming and shows a soldier who appears to be a recruiting sergeant although he does not have any stripes on his arm.  The jacket he wears is a very simplified version of the usual jacket, which should have white tape across the chest instead of dark lines.  The shako seems to be the Waterloo shako, which narrows the date of the subjects down to 1814-1818.  The leg wear is unusual in that it has leggings up to the knee instead of grey trousers with dark spats. There is clearly a man and wife to the center, with child and infant and two other male figures to their left in bowler hats. There is a leaf effect painted to the top right of the picture.

Although rather difficult to date this is an interesting and delightful picture where the skill of the painter frankly doesn’t matter, more the insight it gives into the everyday life of ordinary people.

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