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Tilly Kettle, 1735–1786
Shuja-ud-Daula, Nawab of Oudh
Former Title(s):
Shuja-ud-Daulah, Nawab of Awadh, holding a bow
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
50 × 40 inches (127 × 101.6 cm), Frame: 54 3/4 × 45 3/4 × 3 inches (139.1 × 116.2 × 7.6 cm)

Inscribed in black ink, on a label on the back of the canvas: “Portrait of Sygah Dowlah nabob vizier and Prince of Oude / an ally of Warren Hastings and who for / half a million sterling was to be furnished with / English troops to subjugate the Rohihas and add them to his own dominions / After the death of Sujah Dowlah his son Asapul-Dowlah, a licentious and indolent man, having fallen in arrears of his father’s engagement to the Government, the mother and wife of Sugah Dowlah, known as the principles of Oude, who were supposed to have treasures to the value of three millions sterling, were shut up in their beautiful palace Fyzabad and endured great sufferings until the money was paid. / From the Collection of the late H. C. Plowden. Esq./ of Newtown Park/ Lymington, Hampshire.”; Label on verso, upper left: “Pitt & Scott Ltd | London | [handwritten] Mellon | 81 | [typed] <99991>”

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
bow | brocade | column (architectural element) | costume | fur | gold | hat | man | Mughal | Oudh | people | portrait
Associated Places:
Associated People:
Shuja ud-Daula (d. 1775), nawab of Oudh
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Tilly Kettle established himself in London as a portrait painter in the 1760s. Discouraged by the fierce competition, he sailed to India in 1768, the first professional British artist to make a career there. On arrival in Madras, in southern India, Kettle built a client base of East India Company officials, military officers, and local Indian rulers. In 1771 he moved to Faizabad, where he painted an impressive series of portraits of the powerful Nawab (ruler) Shuja-ud-Daula and his family. Shuja was hostile to British incursions in India but fascinated by the potential of western portraiture to project his own authority. Copied by Indian court artists and used as diplomatic gifts, these portraits played an important role in constructing Shuja’s image during his complex negotiations with the British. Grasping a bow in his right hand, and wearing fur and rich Mughal textiles, the Nawab confronts the viewer with an uncompromising gaze. Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Tilly Kettle, the artist of this portrait, traveled to India in 1768. He was soon invited to the court of the ShujaudDaula, Nawab of Oudh. Known as a patron of the arts, particularly poetry by masters such as Mirza Muhammad Rafi Sauda, the Nawab also supported many painters at his court. He commissioned portraits of himself, his family, and court notables from Kettle during his stay in the city of Faizabad in 1772. Versions of these royal portraits, such as this one, were often purchased as souvenirs by East India Company officials.

2005 reinstallation label

The Critique of Reason : Romantic Art, 1760–1860 (Yale University Art Gallery, 2015-03-06 - 2015-07-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

India's Fabled City - The Art of Courtly Lucknow (Musee National of Asian Art Guimet, 2011-04-06 - 2011-07-11) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

India's Fabled City - The Art of Courtly Lucknow (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2010-12-12 - 2011-02-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Company Culture (Yale Center for British Art, 2003-09-16 - 2004-01-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

The Raj - India and the British 1600 - 1947 (National Portrait Gallery, 1990-10-19 - 1991-03-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Splendours of Princely India (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985-11 - 1986-02-23) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Mildred Archer, India and British Portraiture, 1770-1825, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1979, pp. 78, 492, fig. 30, ND 1327 I44 A72 (YCBA) [YCBA]

C. A. Bayly, The Raj, India and the British, 1600-1947 , National Portrait Gallery, London, 1990, pp. 80-1, cat. no. 77, DS428 R25 1990 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 134-135, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Susan Dunne, Nicola Hicks finds expressive matches, Hartford Courant, Hartford, December 8, 2013, pp. G1, G6, Available online : Orbis and Proquest Digital Microfilm [ORBIS]

Stephen Markel, India's fabled city, the art of courtly Lucknow , Prestel, Munich New York, 2010, pp. 17, 252, no. 1, 1, N7308 L83 M37 2010 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

John McAleer, Picturing India People, Places, and the World of the East India Company, The British Library, London, p. 141, fig. 4.4, N8214.5.I5 M43 2017 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Morna O'Neill, Company Culture:, British Artists and the East India Company 1770-1830: October 16, 2003-January 11, 2004 , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2003, no. 8, V 1199 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Stuart Cary Welch, The British view of India, selected English paintings from the Paul Mellon collection , American Federation of Arts, New York, 1978, N8214.5 I5 B75 1978 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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