Madras Light Cavalry, an officer in full dress uniform,1839


A scarce and very handsome portrait of a mounted officer in full dress, an aquatint Drawn & coloured by Wm Hunsley and Printed by Wm Parker, St Thomas’s Mount . St Thomas’s Mount was the Headquarters of the Madras Artillery and about 8 miles south west of Madras [ now Chenai ]. The aquatint measures 16 x 12 ins overall, the coloured print itself being 10¾ x 8¼ ins. the upper left corner is missing and an old paper backing is protecting that area. The image of the officer is not affected and it would be a relatively easy task to continue the bordering lines and add a watercolour wash to complete that corner of blue sky if required. The pale yellow facings on the uniform jacket identify the officer as being in either the 1st or 5th regiments of the 8 regiments of Madras Light Cavalry listed in The East India Register and Directory for 1839. The trousers are described in dress regulations of the time as being sky blue and the shabraque seems to be the same colour. Large format printings in Madras this early are extremely unusual.

The officer’s lavishly decorated uniform is described by W YCarman in Indian Army Uniforms…Cavalry [Leonard Hill, 1961] as ‘one of the most charming dresses devised in the military world. William Hunsley in his series of coloured prints c. 1839 shows a mounted officer. He wears the black helmet as before but with thick crest like the bearskin introduced at home in 1834, but in bright red, the colour of the previous mane’.   apr13/2

Provenance: Formerly in the collection of W Y Carman.


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