The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of March 24, 2018

English Babu (Native Indian Clerk) Holding a Hookah, 1800s

Black ink, watercolor, and tin paint, with graphite underdrawing on paper, Secondary Support: 48 x 29.5 cm (18 7/8 x 11 9/16 in.); Painting only: 45.7 x 28 cm (17 15/16 x 11 in.). Gift of William E. Ward in memory of his wife, Evelyn Svec Ward 2003.145

This is an archetypal satirical caricature of an native Indian clerk (babu), a Bengali dapper dandy whose fashion sense combines British and Indian mores with dissonant results. Imitating his British masters, he sits cross-legged on a Victorian chair, holding a hookah, sporting a Prince Albert hairstyle, and wearing European buckled shoes. His posture models popular photo studio portraits of the time. Kalighat painters ridiculed these vain babus as foppish nouveau riche.

Cleveland Museum of Art, (5/1/11-9/18/11); "Indian Kalighat Paintings"

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