Thirteen Indian Clay Figures Depicting various Ethnic Groups and Professions

Bengal, probably Krishnangar, 19th century

Clay with textile clothing and metal armature

Height: 7 - 9 inches


Figures like these reflect the enthusiasm for classifying and categorizing native peoples during the Victorian colonial period. Many were produced for display in museums as well as for individuals. There is a clear link to the so-called Company School bound manuscripts of watercolors of the same subjects, see Sotheby’s New York, March 20, 2001, lot 28, labeled Tashri-ul-Akwam (Concise Account of the People) and lots 136 & 137 in the same sale. See also Dalrymple and Sharma, Princes and Painters in Mughal Delhi, 1707-1857, Asia Society, New York, 2012, p. 124, no. 43 and pp.134-138, no's. 49-53 for further similar depictions from the Frazer Album.  

1. Unknown

2.  Abdar or bearer (at the table)

3. Derzi or tailor (Muslim)

4.  Syce or groom

5. Letter Writer

6.  Constable (policeman)

7. Ayah (nurse maid & European charge)

8.  Unknown

9. Villager with clay Lota (waterpot)

10. Munshi (clerk in Government or large household – Brahmin by caste mark)

11. Bhisti (water carrier), probably a Mali (gardener)

12. Villager (Santal - sandlewood)

13. Khitmagar (Head waiter)