Ahmedabad, the Viaduct leading to the Temple in the centre of Kakria Tank, watercolour c. 1840s


Bellasis, John Brownrigg [Major, 19th Bombay Infantry]: Ruins of Kakria Temple nr. Ahmedabad, additionally titled at the top of the painting Kakria Tank Ahmedabad. A large unmounted watercolour on paper, 17½ x 13½ ins [44.5 x 34 cm].  The artist’s usual signature initials JBB appear twice, both to the left and the right of the lower title. Kakria, now known as Kankira, is the second largest tank or lake in Ahmedabad, an ancient city in the Gujarat area of western India. It was completed in the 1450s by Sultan Qutb-ud-Din Ahmad Shah II and this painting shows the partially ruined abridge leading out to the island temple. The lake and its surrounding have now been made into a major tourist attraction but Bellasis presents a calm and peaceful view of the ruins. The bridge of 38 stone arches was recorded by the British as dilapidated and restoration of the area was not begun until 1872. Bellasis shows his mastery of architectural painting in his detailing of the bridge leading out to the ruined temple on the central island. An interesting detail at the left edge is the inclusion of the Old Dutch Tombs which are in a mixture of Mughal and European styles. The colours, although quite muted, remain bright and fresh as the painting has been in a folder for the intervening years since it was created.

As a Bombay Army officer most of the artist’s work was done in Western India, much of it around Ahmedabad, the ancient city which offered great variety for Bellasis’s penchant for Mughal and earlier architecture. This painting came to us with a group of other paintings by Bellasis, a number of which are signed and titled and, in the case of a very few, dated. All these are on the same paper and usually of the same size. The paper used here is not of the highest quality but is in sound condition with just a little chipping and minor loss at the edges. jun26/1

Major John Brownrigg Bellasis [c. 1806- 1890] was commissioned into the East India Company’s Bombay Army in the 10th Native Infantry in 1822 and remained with that regiment for most of his career until becoming a lieutenant colonel when  he moved first to the 8th and then served in several regiments. He was on furlough during much of 1841 & 1842 and it is this period when he seems to have been painting most consistently. He came from a military family, his father, also John, being a major general commanding the Bombay Artillery around the time of his birth. The East India Register 1825 when John Brownrigg Bellasis was an ensign in the 10th shows Jonathan Hutchins Bellasis was a  captain in the same regiment, probably an elder brother, and Edward H. Bellasis was Private Secretary to the Governor.

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