View of a Mosque and Gateway at Motijhil

Artist: Attributed to Sita Ram (active 1814–23)

Object Name: Illustrated single work

Date: ca. 1814–23

Geography: Made in India, Bengal

Culture: Islamic

Medium: Opaque watercolor on paper

Dimensions: Painting: H. 13 in. (33 cm)
W. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
Mat (Standard size B): H. 16 in. (40.6 cm)
W. 22 in. (55.9 cm)

Classification: Codices

Credit Line: Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky Fund, 2002

Accession Number: 2002.461


The subject of this painting is the mosque and gateway of the Sang-i Dalan palace at Motijhil, outside Murshidabad, built in 1743 by Nawazish Muhammad Khan. The artist was probably Sita Ram, an accomplished Bengali painter. This work comes from an album that had been made for Francis Rawdon (second earl of Moira, later first marquess of Hastings; governor-general of Bengal 1813–23) on a tour of northern India.
Sita Ram's career can be followed only for the brief but intense span of time when he worked for Hastings, from about 1814 to 1823. During that period, he created the ten albums of the 1814–15 journey and at least two more based on tours in 1817 and 1820–21; contributed to albums of natural history drawings; and made other studies that were later placed in scrapbooks.
Like the other works made for Hastings, this painting no doubt captures what the traveling party saw, but it also suffuses both landscape and architecture with a sense of languor, evoking a timeless mood rather than a fleeting moment from a trip. This impression is further emphasized by the artist's decision to depict the Motijhil site from behind, excluding the main palace and emphasizing the state of decay of the remaining buildings.