Thomas Daniell

Sher Shah’s Mausoleum, Sasaram


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Thomas Daniell 1749–1840
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 972 × 1359 mm
frame: 1110 × 1500 × 75 mm
Purchased 1971

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This painting shows the mausoleum of the sixteenth-century Afghan ruler Sher Shah, at Sasaram, within British-ruled Bihar in northern India. 

Daniell’s views of India offered a kind of armchair tourism to his British audience. A contemporary complimented Daniell on ‘increasing our enjoyment by bringing scenes to our fireside, too distant to visit, and too singular to be imagined’. But if such views pandered to the taste for the ‘exotic’, we might also note that Daniell’s images represented the richness and sophistication of the Indian cultural heritage that later, racist views denied.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Thomas Daniell 1749–1840

T01403 Sher Shah’s Mausoleum, Sasaram 1810

Inscribed ‘T-DANIELL 1810’ on a tomb b.l.
Canvas, 38¼ x 53½ (97 x 136).
Purchased from Dr Maurice Shellim through Mr W.G.Archer (Grant-in- Aid) 1971.
Coll: acquired from the artist by Charles Hampden Turner (1771–1856) and sold by his great-grandson in January 1928; ...; Dr Maurice Shellim.
Exh: R.A. 1810 (143, as ‘The mausoleum of the Emperor Shere Shaw, at Sas- saram, in the province of Bahar, East Indies’).
Lit: Thomas Sutton, The Daniells, 1954, PP64, 97.

Thomas Daniell and his nephew William were in India between 1786 and 1793. They made a long sketching tour of upper India from 1788 to 1791, visiting the 16th-century mausoleum of the Afghan ruler Sher Shah at Sasaram, Bihar, in February 1790. As well as this painting of the subject (made after his return to England) there is a watercolour by Thomas Daniell of the same view in the collection of the Pacific & Orient Steam Navigation Company (Mildred Archer, The Daniells in India, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, 1962, no. 37, repr.) and a pencil and wash drawing by him of the Western Gate of the mausoleum in the India Office Library (Mildred Archer, British Drawings in the India Office Library, 1969, II, p.585, no.W.D.201). A drawing by Daniell of the mausoleum was engraved by F.J. Havell for The Oriental Annual, 1834, facing p.123, and was accompanied by a description of the site by the Rev. Hobart Caunter.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.

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