Vishnu, ascetics and fakirs from the Doyle Collection

It has been an interesting week in the RAS Archives. I have been busy cataloguing the personal papers of Sir William and Lady Anna Maria Jones. Soon their descriptions will be available to read online at Archives Hub alongside those of John Drew Bate, a Baptist missionary and Hindi scholar, which I catalogued a couple of weeks ago. It is exciting to see all the sorting and ordering slowly beginning to bear fruit in being able to catalogue our collections. It will be even more exciting when their presence on Archives Hub results in enquiries coming into the Reading Room.

I have also begun sorting the papers of Charles Ambrose Storey, which all need rehousing in archival quality boxes, and I have been filling in a grant application form. As I was doing that yesterday the computer system crashed, and I was left wondering till this morning as to how many of my answers had been saved. Fortunately very little data was lost and I was able to continue with it today. But that potential mishap, alongside the dreary weather of the last couple of days, led me to seek out something colourful about which to blog.

Our art collections are full of wonderful material, much of which I have yet to see. So on this wet Friday afternoon I dived down into the strong room and brought up a box from the Doyle Collection.

Major-General Charles Doyle (1787-1848) was born in Warsaw, second son of Major-General Welbore Ellis Doyle. He served as Military Secretary to Warren Hastings, Governor-General of India, from 1813-1819. He continued in India until 1823 when he travelled overland through Persia and Russian back to England. He subsequently lived and worked in Jamaica and Grenada, before retiring in England in 1846. He died in London in 1848.

During his time in India Doyle collected many paintings, often as part of his official duties. The paintings I chose from his collection are part of an album of Patna paintings by an Indian artist which Doyle probably acquired on his way back to Calcutta from Rajasthan in 1818. I am grateful to the information in Raymond Head’s “Catalogue of Paintings, drawings, Engravings & Busts: The Collection of the Royal Asiatic Society” for both biographical information about Doyle and details about the collection.

The album consists of 80 paintings depicting avatars of Vishnu and a series of ascetics and fakirs. I have selected 10 of these with which to brighten mine (and hopefully your) wet August day.

Matsya Avatar

Parasurama Avatar

Rama Avatar



Shah karak

Muharram ka Imambara


Pir Abdal Bukhari ka Chari

Written by Nancy Charley