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Arthur William Devis, 1762–1822
Formerly attributed to Thomas Hickey, 1741–1824
Portrait of a Gentleman and an Indian Servant
Former Title(s):

A Gentleman and his Indian Servant [1985, Cormack, YCBA Concise Catalogue]

Portrait of a Gentleman, Possibly William Hickey, and an Indian Servant
ca. 1785
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
41 3/4 x 32 7/8 inches (106 x 83.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
hookah | Indian | letter | portrait | servant | smoking
Associated People:
Hickey, William (1749–1827), lawyer in India and memoirist
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

After being shipwrecked off the Pelew Islands, east of the Philippines, the portraitist Arthur William Devis (son of the painter Arthur Devis) traveled via Macao to Calcutta, arriving in 1784. He remained in India for eleven years, where he painted portraits of British colonists such as this. The identity of this sitter smoking a hookah is unknown, but his languid posture marks a shift in the way British patrons were willing to be represented in small-scale portraits. Devis’s father had shown his sitters as embodiments of polite consumption, affluent and refined but not luxurious (an example is shown nearby). His son, however, portrays this sitter as an indolent colonial master, leisured and sedentary because of the diligent Indian servant on hand to attend to his every need. The servant is so deferential that he does not even look directly at his master.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Adapting the Eye: an archive of the British in India, 1770-1830 (Yale Center for British Art, 2011-10-11 - 2011-12-31) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Below Stairs - The Servant (Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 2004-02-27 - 2004-05-31) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Below Stairs - The Servant (National Portrait Gallery, 2003-10-01 - 2004-02-14) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Mildred Archer, India and British Portraiture, 1770-1825, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1979, pp. 245, 503, fig. 167, ND 1327 I44 A72 (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. 86-87, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Holly Shaffer, Adapting the eye, An archive of the British in India, 1770-1830 , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2011, p. 33, no. 114, V2359 (YCBA) [YCBA]

R. J. B. Walker, Regency portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1985, p. 250 (vol. 1), N1090 A592 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Giles Waterfield, Below stairs, 400 years of servants' portraits , National Portrait Gallery, London, 2003, p. 146-148, no. 75, ND1460 D65 W37 2003 (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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