Bellasis, John Brownrigg: A good and largewatercolour of the great Bibiji Mosque at Rajpur, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India c. 1840s


Bellasis, John Brownrigg [Major, 19th Bombay Infantry]: Beebee Mouzim (Padshahzadee) … Musjid, Rajpoor Nr. Ahmedabad, A large unmounted watercolour on paper, 17½ x 13½ ins [44.5 x 34 cm].  The historical monument, now known as Achut Bibiji Mosque lies to the south of the walled city of Ahmedabad in modern day Rajapur. Bellasis shows the great mosque’s eastern facade with its monumental entrance gateway flanked by two ornate minarets. Today the building, dated in the architecture to 1454 is in less perfect state and the left hand minaret has lost its upper stages and a photograph of the 1860s shows both minarets reduced. The painting is titled by Bellasis and his usual signature JBB appears at the lower right edge with a monkey introduced at the opposite side of the painting. 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, one of the two closed tears to the left side touched the monkey and there seems to some old water damage across the ground in front of the building but it is not visible from the verso and could be the work of the artist. Bellasis more usually paints his architecture from a greater distance than this.      jul23/1

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.

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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