Bellasis, John Brownrigg: A watercolour of the Moreshwar Temple complex, near Pune , n Mahashtra. c. 1838


Bellasis, John Brownrigg [Major, 19th Bombay Infantry]: Moreshwar, Jejoory & Poorundur Hill in distance. 5th Octr. )8  A large unmounted watercolour on paper, 17½ x 13½ ins [44.5 x 34 cm].  The Moreshwar Temple complex near Poona / Pune in modern day Maharashtra in the former Bombay Presidency is a major Hindu pilgrimage site devoted to Ganesha. Bellasis has chosen his viewpoint looking over a wall in the foreground with small details of a well with two Indians chatting across the it. The colours, although quite muted especially in the distance, remain bright and fresh as the painting has been in a folder for the intervening years since it was created. There are the usual small areas of damage at the edges and the paper is somewhat wrinkled to the right edge. We cannot locate the artist’s usual signature JBB on this painting and the dating, rather unusual on his paintings, has an annoying way of giving the year but is most probably 1838.      jul21/1

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 very minor loss at the edges. ju20/1

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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