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Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent

CAT. NO. 71

View of the tomb of Afzal Khan in Agra Company School (Agra), c.1810

Ink and opaque watercolour on European paper watermarked John Hall 1805 | 43.6 × 55.6 cm | RCIN 932752

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This is one of five drawings in the Royal Collection of Mughal monuments of Agra and its environs drawn by local artists after the East India Company took over the city in 1803.[236]

It depicts the tomb of Afzal Khan (d. 1639), an Iranian originally from Shiraz who served as finance minister to Mughal Emperor Shah-Jahan (see cat. no. 30, the figure standing in the right centre foreground with a long grey beard wearing a pink jama).[237] The tomb was constructed during Afzal Khan's own lifetime on a riverside garden site along the banks of the River Jumna and is covered in coloured tile mosaics (chini), hence its popular name chini ka rauza, ‘the Chinese tomb’.

It is very rare to find depictions of this building in contemporary architectural drawings because, by the early nineteenth century, it was already in a grave state of dilapidation.[238] This is an idealised view of what the building would have looked like when first constructed, which suggests that drawings of this type may have originated as working drawings to be used by East India Company engineers responsible for the upkeep and restoration of Mughal buildings.[239] Just as in southern India (see cat. nos 6970), British draughtsmen in Agra and Delhi trained local artists in pen-and-ink and watercolour techniques to make architectural studies in a European style, either in full elevation as here, on in perspective. The buildings are all depicted against an uncoloured background, surrounded by thin black frames and often scrupulously detailed. As the British population in the cities increased, these drawings became popular souvenir items and were soon being produced on a commercial scale to be collected in albums. 

  • [236] RCINS 932750–9327505.

    [237] For this building see Asher 1992, p. 132.  

    [238] See painting by Sita Ram c.1815 painted for Lord Moira (later Marquess of Hastings), BL Add. MS Or. 4863 and ‘The China Tomb in Agra now in Ruins’, BL Add. MS Or. 2662, c.1840.

    [239] See Archer 1992, p. 130. 

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