Posted on: 13 March 2015

A procession celebrating the Feast of the Assumption, statues of the Blessed Virgin carried by bearers through streets
Pondicherry, mid-19th Century

Watercolour on paper

French inscription:
Fete chretienne d'asiancoupon [?], procession de la vierge, giroles entoures de fleurs at bottom with the number 36 in the bottom left-hand corner, framed

Antoine Poli, the vendor's grandfather, a Lieutenant in the Gendarmerie Francaise, stationed in Pondicherry for four years in the early 1920s, and thence by descent.

Pondicherry was bought by the French in 1672 from the King of Bijapur and following a turbulent history was returned by France to India in 1954. Although French demands on native artists were far less than those of British patrons, they would have been impressed by the Company School atelier and commissioned local scenes.

Since the supposed arrival in AD 52 of the Apostle Thomas, India has always welcomed Christians. Jesuits hoping to convert the young Muhgal Emperor Akbar in the 16th Century maintained a mission at the court until 1803. Churches and cathedrals have been built throughout India, and the Church of Notre Dame des Anges was completed at Pondicherry in 1855.

The Portuguese Jesuit Fathers at the Mughal court of Akbar came laden with gifts for the young Emperor and in 1580 presented him with a copy of Plantin's Polyglot Bible, printed for Philip II of Spain. Akbar listened to those of all faiths during his years at Fatephur Sikri (1575-1582). However, the Jesuit priests were particularly pleased that Akbar celebrated the Feast of the Assumption and was said to have kissed a picture of the Virgin given to him by Father Rudolph Aquaviva whose mission was at the Mughal court from 1580 to 1583.

Source: Bonhams

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