Naive watercolour of a Company Sergeant Major of the 22nd Regiment of foot and his family, J. Wright, Newcastle, 1832
A delightful early 19th century watercolour of a Company Sergeant Major of the 22nd Regiment of Foot of the British Army with his wife and child.
Portraits such as these were often painted by itinerant limners or, more usually by the time of this painting, by local artists who advertised in local trade directories. These were often intended as keepsakes when soldiers were far overseas. Here, however, we may have another tale to tell. The Sergeant Major wears and arm band and the mother wears black. Whilst wearing black was not unusual, it hadn’t reached the heights it did under Queen Victoria following the death of Prince Albert.
Do the black gown and black armband tell us something else?
The 22nd Regiment of Foot took part in the Battle of Meeanee in February 1843 and the Battle of Hyderabad the following month. On 17th February 1843, at Miani, near Hyderabad, Sir Charles Napier's 3000 strong army met the Sindh army of 8000 commanded by Mir Nasir Khan Talpur. A professionally trained British regiment and several units of Indian soldiers, armed with modern weaponry and supplies, met wave after wave of Sindh Baluchi cavalry resulting in 5000 dead. British casualties were estimated at just 260. In 1843 after the Battles of Miani and Dubbo, Sindh was annexed to the British East India Company's Bombay Presidency. It later took part in the Conquest of Sind.
The painting has the name J. Wright, Newcastle and an indiscernible date to the bottom left and right of the painting and, helpfully, to the back, J. Wright, Newcastle, 1832.
Measuring: Overall (frame) 31.5 cm x 27.5 cm Sight 17.5cm x 13 cm
English, Newcastle, c.1832