A Hindoo Female


A native “Hindoo” woman is portrayed carrying three pots of water on her head as she descends down to the river. The viewer is presented with a voyeuristic gaze of her backside; the implied motion of her figure is graceful and seductive. The foreground is composed of a path covered with lush plants, and a single palm tree juts up from the ground, mimicking the voluptuous curves of the woman’s body. The middle ground contains a white walled temple that opens onto a sacred bathing area. Just behind this temple are two temple peaks that emerge like mountains behind the dense foliage. Consequently, this image juxtaposes the profane, seductive woman with sacred space (the temples). This trope is a common one employed in native Indian painting, sculpture, and architecture.

Primary Works: 

The Oriental Annual, or Scenes in India (Vol. 3: London, 1836)

Accession Number: 

AY 13 O7 1834
Edition and state not identified.
A Hindoo Female was an original sketch done by William Daniell, inspired by his travels in India. It is bound in The Oriental Annual, or Scenes in India (1836) as the frontispiece to the book.
Tours of Wiliam and Thomas Daniell in India 

At the age of fourteen, William Daniell accompanied his uncle Thomas Daniell, a landscape painter trained at the Royal Academy, on a journey to India from 1786 to 1794. The first two years were spent in Calcutta preparing Views of Calcutta. After the first two years they traveled to the Punjab Hills and then back to Calcutta in 1971. They began a second tour in 1792, working their way through Mysore and Madras. After staying in Madras from 1793 to 1794 they finally returned to England. Drawings made during these trips were engraved in books and prints (some of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy).

The India Act of 1784 

The Daniells arrived in India during a period of political transition, just after the departure of Warren Hastings and prior to the instatement of Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805), the new Governor-General of India. Cornwallis was the first Governor-General appointed under the new India Act of 1784 (passed during William Pitt's term as British prime minister). The act was passed in part as a means of reigning in the Hastings style of government, which was seen as “too indigenous, free-wheeling and popular, too benevolent and multi-national and not British enough” (De Almeida 168). Hastings became known for incorporating native Indians as administrators, financers, and civil servants. The India Act proceeded to centralize Company administration: a six-member Board of Control was created which controlled the Company’s possessions abroad, and the Governor-Generalship was made a Crown appointment with full control over other governors and presidencies in India. Additionally, the act created a centralized British military in India.

Appointment of Governor-General Cornwallis (1786-1793)

Charles Cornwallis (1738-1805) gained experience in the military while serving in America, and was employed to carry out England’s imperialist vision in India. His strategic military victories on land (for example, in Mysore with Tipu Sultan) not only extended England's rule, but also provided sepoys that could be recruited and kept on reserve for the Napoleonic Wars. Additionally, Cornwallis’ belief that “every native of Hindoostan is corrupt” gave way to a purging of Indian natives from administrative positions and forbid mixing or socializing between races. A purification and segregation process, in which hybridity was especially scorned, took place under Cornwallis’s rule (De Almeida 168). Dalrymple claims that “these new racial attitudes affected all aspects of relations between the British and Indians” (Dalrymple 41). Prior to Cornwallis’s strict racial segregation, many British officials were integrated into Indian society by learning the language, adopting Indian dress and mannerisms, and marrying Indian women (bibis). The decline of this integration became apparent with the declining rates of bibis on wills; by the mid-nineteenth century no records of bibis on wills exist (Dalrymple 1). Even though these changes brought about tension between the British and Indians, many British officials continued to be patrons of Indian art (Archer 1-15).
The East India Company (1600-1873)

The East India Company was formed to trade with East and Southeast Asia and India and was instituted by royal charter on Dec. 31, 1600. Although it started as a monopolistic trading company, it soon became involved in politics and acted as an instrument of British imperialism in India from the early eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. The company was founded with the hope of dominating the East Indian spice trade. This trade had been a monopoly of Spain and Portugal until the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 gave England the opportunity to appropriate the lucrative market.
The Oriental Annual, or Scenes in India (Vol. 3: London, 1836)

The Oriental Annual was written by Rev. Hobart Caunter (1792-1851) as an account of William Daniell's travels in India; it sought to provide both instruction and fictional entertainment. Rev. Hobart Caunter wrote the book after a series of interviews with William Daniell, and Daniell's A Hindoo Female serves as the frontispiece (Sutton). Opposite to this image in the text is a depiction of Qutub Minar. It was also drawn by Daniell, and was engraved by J. C. Armytag. Because these prints share a uniformity of style, it is likely that they were intended as a type of pendant to introduce the subsequent narration.

Chapter 1 of the text begins in Madras, where the monsoon
. . . appeared like a dense cloud upon the distant horizon; we passed it about noon, running gallantly up the Coromandel coast, where all those picturesque varieties in the landscape were presented to our view for which that coast is distinguished. Those bright tints, so common in this glowing clime, where were thrown over every object on the land, were continually varying with the rise and declension of the sun, exhibiting to the European eye a something at once so indefinitely impressive and strikingly new, that I felt for the moment rather a weight upon my spirits and thought of Old England with keener regret than I had done since I quitted her shores. We, however, soon got into the shelter of the town, where we were still pursued by the boisterous importunities of native servants and tradesmen, who are always clamorously urgent, the one to be hired, the other to be employed. (Daniell 1)
The above text highlights the disjunction of visualizing India as both picturesque and barbaric. The British Romantic eye that desires to appreciate the picturesque beauty of India (from the vantage of a ship, far away from land) struggles to accommodate the realities of the natives on land, who are loud and boisterous, and who overcrowd the Englishmen asking for work.
In this engraving, which depicts a woman in relief against distant temple spires, William Daniell combines techniques of the picturesque with elements of erotic Indian art to produce an image that is at once a site of the sacred and of the profane.
The Daniells were trained in the picturesque, which
. . . emphasized the composition of the painting in terms of the three areas which were of concern in planning a garden prospect: the ‘foreground’, which ought to include arresting, natural features or artifacts or figures of people or animals; the ‘middle ground’, which was supposed to depict the main subject of interest of an architectural subject, a house or monument; and the ‘background’ which was suppose to represent the distant setting of forest, hills, or mountains against the sky. (De Almeida 168)
In A Hindoo Female, the female body initially becomes the site of interest on account of its size, which, relative to the surrounding space, is significantly large. Grounded in this primary impression, the human figure becomes a substitute for the architectural form, performing a structural presence of intense beauty that taunts a desire of possession.

A Hindoo Female and subsequent engravings that were produced by the Daniells were widely circulated in England, and they fed the English imagination with ideas of the beautiful and exotic to be found in India. The picturesque, in turn, was affected by its contact with Indian artistic traditions. Even though William Daniell does not mention his familiarity with this erotic Indian female, his sketches in 1792 of the voluptuous, bare breasted women on the façade of the temple Karli attest to his encounter with erotic Indian sculptures (Archer 144). The voluptuous, erotic women depicted on many Indian temples most likely inspired the seductive qualities of the women in the Daniells' engravings.

The Oriental Annual, or Scenes in India constituted a combination of fictional and instructional manuals that were widely distributed and read; many book reviews regarding The Oriental Annual are found in periodicals of the time.

Archer, Mildred. Early Views of India: The Picturesque Journeys of Thomas and William Daniell, 1786-1794: The Complete Aquatints. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1980. Print.

Daniell, William and Hobart Caunter. The Oriental Annual, or Scenes in India. Vol. 3. London, 1836. Print. 7 vols. 1834-40.

De Almeida, Hermione and George H. Gilpin. Indian Renaissance: British Romantic Art and the Prospect of India. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005. Print.

Sutton, Thomas. The Daniells; Artists and Travellers. London: Bodley Head, 1954. Print.
A Hindoo Female, Drawn by Daniell R.A. and Engraved by W. D. Taylor


Image Date: 



Bull and Churton (or Bull and Co)

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