Portrait of Sir David Ochterlony
This painting portrays Sir David Ochterlony (1758-1825), a Major-General who served for the British East India Company. He lived in Delhi from 1803 to 1825, during which time he was appointed British Resident, or Ambassador, from 1803-6, and again from 1818-22. He was known for his eccentric lifestyle including having thirteen Indian wives, with whom he supposedly paraded around the Mughal Red Fort each evening on elephants.
In this painting, Ochterlony stands on a terrace in full European costume. His right hand is outstretched as though holding a flower, recalling traditional Mughal portraiture. Inscribed on the reverse in Nagari script is ‘Jarnal Akhtar Lani Saheb’, and the painting is signed by the Jaipur artist Ram Lal.
This painting was formerly in the collection of William Fraser (1784-1835), who was appointed secretary to Ochterlony in 1805. Fraser was an avid patron of the arts and a great admirer of Mughal culture. He commissioned the well known ‘Fraser Album’ which contained works by prominent Mughal artists of the time.
A further painting of Ochterlony from the same period is in the British Library, London, Accession Number Add.Or.2, and illustrated in Welch, p. 108, fig. 46. In this painting, Ochterlony sits smoking a hookah in his house in Delhi, wearing Indian dress and watching a nautch (traditional dance).
Literature: Welch, S. C. Room for Wonder: Indian Painting during the British Period 1760-1880, The American Federation of Arts, New York, 1978.