A Large-scale Company School Panoramic View of the Fort at Agra
By an Agra draftsman, circa 1820
Watercolour on paper, marked "W. TURNER & SON"
41 cm by 164.5 cm., 16 1/8 by 64½ in. or slightly larger; 39 by 161 cm., 15 3/8 by 16½ in. within border
This large-scale view is based on another in the British Library of about 1812 from the collection of George Steell, who served in the Bengal Engineers and was posted at Agra 1807-13. It bears a watermark of 1803 and, at 38 by 131.5 cm., is slightly smaller than the present view; see Pal, p., Romance of the Taj Mahal, Los Angeles, 1989, p.78, no. 69. Both have the distinctive double black linear borders.
Originally a Rajput brick fort, the Agra fort was occupied by the Lodhis before being taken by the Mughals and despite Humayun being crowned there in 1530, it was not until 1573 that Akbar's fort was completed, having made Agra his capital in 1558. It was during the reign of Shah Jahan (r.1605-27), however, that many of the fortâ€™s most beautiful white marble palaces were built, and it was here, imprisoned by his son, that the Emperor spent the last seven years of his life.
The sheer scale of the fort is impressive, its dressed red sandstone walls being some 2.5 km. (1½ miles) long and 21 m. (70 ft.) high. From the left the various buildings visible include:
- the Jahangiri Mahal (1570)
- the Khass Mahal (1636) of Shah Jahan with the two Bengali-roofed pavilions
- the Musamman Burj (1631-40)
- the Diwan-i Khass (1637)
- the Hamman or baths with its high tower, now gone
- the distant Delhi gate
- the Moti or Pearl Mosque (1650s)
For a modern photographic view, see Koch, E., The Complete Taj Mahal, London, 2006, p.67, no.82.
At the end on the embankment lies the Great Gun of Agra, a famous piece of ordnance in its time, for which see Losty, J.P., 'The Great Gun at Agra', British Library Journal, vol.XV, London, 1989, pp. 35-58
Acquired by H.J. Allcroft (d.1911) of Stokesay Court, Shropshire
By descent to Lady Magnus-Allcroft of Stokesay (d.1992)
Sold, Sotheby's, Stokesay Court house sale, 28 September-1 October 1994, lot 686
Spink & Son, 1996
Private collection, London, 1996-2010
Sold, Sotheby's, The Contents of Stokesay Court, 28 September-1 October 1994, lot 686 (detail illustrated)
A Journey through India: Company School Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Spink & Son, London, 1996, pp.32-3, no.13 (illustrated in colour)