Posted on: 7 March 2014

Receipt of the crude opium, Patna, ca.1857.
By Shiva Lal

Painting; gouache on mica.

This Company Painting (a painting made by an Indian artist for the British in India) is done on mica (talc) and comes from a series of nineteen illustrating processes in the manufacture of opium at the opium factory at Gulzarbagh in Patna, Bihar. According to the artist Ishwari Prasad, his grandfather, Shiva Lal (c.1817-1887), began to make the designs for these paintings in 1857. They were commissioned by Dr D. R. Lyall (the personal assistant in charge of opium-making) for a series of wall paintings in the Gulzarbagh factory. However, Lyall was killed in 1857, during the so-called Indian Mutiny, and the scheme was abandoned.

This picture shows the receipt of the crude opium, which is being brought in by three men carrying bowls of it on their heads. Eight men are squatting on the ground with more bowls, while an onlooker - perhaps a supervisor - stands at an open doorway.

Copyright: © V&A Images

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