Soltykoff visited Lahore during a tumultuous period in Punjab history, which is perhaps alluded to by the man hanging from the gallows in the background. Sher Singh was the second son of Ranjit Singh, unifier of Sikh Punjab and the first Sikh ruler of the region. When Ranjit died in 1839 after a 40-year reign, the Hindu Dogra brothers and the Sikh aristocracy fought for control. Amidst the turmoil, Sher Singh only managed to reign from 1841 until his violent death in 1843. Several years of fighting culminated with the British entering the conflict in late 1845; by 1849 Lahore was officially under British control. During the nineteenth century, the British and other Europeans were eager to learn about India’s complex and highly developed cultures that were so different from their own.
Prince Alexis (also known as Aleksei Dmitrievich or Aleksandr Mikhailovich) Soltykoff (or Saltuikov) was born into a wealthy and influential St. Petersburg family. He was tutored in art by Russian painter Aleksandr Orlowski. After a short career in the Russian diplomatic service, he settled in Paris around 1840. From there he made two trips to the Indian subcontinent, in 1841-1843 and 1845-1846. His social connections gave him entrée to the highest echelons of British colonial society, and by extension, some of the Indian Rajas. He was a gifted draftsman and writer, and his observations from his travels, recorded in letters to one of his brothers, were first published in France as Lettres sur l’Inde (1848). In 1850, the publisher Auguste Bry published the plates in a large folio format under the title Voyage dans l’Inde. Several subsequent octavo format versions were also published. Another Parisian firm, H. Gache, published a book of folio size lithographs under the title Habitants de l’Inde in 1853. In 1859, two folio editions of 15 plates plus a title vignette were printed by Auguste Bry and published by Smith, Elder & Co., London and Smith, Taylor & Co., Bombay under the title Indian Scenes and Characters.
Louis Henri de Rudder was a French painter and lithographer of portraits, genre and history subjects. Born in Paris, he spent his life there. He was a student of Antoine-Jean Gros and Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet and debuted in the Salon in 1935. He received medals in 1840 and 1848 and was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1863. His best known graphic works are the series of lithographs of Indian subjects after drawings by Prince Alexis Soltykoff published by Auguste Bry. De Rudder’s works are in numerous museums including Versailles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museée d’Orsay, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and the New York Public Library.
Auguste Bry was a lithographer and print publisher in 19th century Paris.
Full publication information: De Rudder Lith. d’après le Dessin du Prince A. Soltykoff. Imp. par Auguste Bry, G’de Medaille d’Or de S.M. l’Empereur de toutes les Russies. [De Rudder Lithographed after the Drawing of Prince A. Soltykoff. Printed by Auguste Bry, Grand Gold Medal of the Emperor of All of Russia.]
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. (de Rudder, Vol. 7, p. 417).
“Chir Singh maharaja des Siks…” British Library Online Gallery. 26 March 2009. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019pzz000000981u00000000.html (28 November 2018).
“Lot 184: Soltykoff, Prince Alexis. Voyage dans l’Inde Pendant les Années 1841-1842, 1843, 1845-1846.” http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/lot.184.html/2014/travel-atlases-maps-natural-history-l14405 (28 November 2018).
Murali, Deepthi. “Prince Alexandr Saltuikov’s Travancore.” Deepthi Murali. 25 June 2016. http://www.deepthimurali.com/blog/2016/6/25/prince-aleksei-soltykoffs-elephants-of-travancore-raja (28 November 2018).
Saltuikov, Prince A.D. Lettres sur L’Inde avec Trente-Deux Dessins Gravés sur Pierre, Imprimés a deux et trois teintes. Paris: Amyot, 1849. Plate 22. https://books.google.com/books?id=hSthAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA222 (28 November 2018).
“The Sikh wars & the annexation of the Panjab.” Victoria and Albert Museum. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/sikh-wars-and-annexation-of-the-panjab/ (29 November 2018).