LADY IMPEY'S INDIAN BIRD PAINTINGS
The paintings in this exhibition formed part of a great collection of natural history studies commissioned at Calcutta by Mary, Lady Impey, wife of the Chief Justice Sir Elijah Impey, between 1777 and 1782. The Impeys shared the keen scholarly curiosity about India which prevailed among the circle of the Governor-General Warren Hastings, and they also assembled an extensive aviary and menagerie at their Calcutta home.
Lady Impey seems to have taken the lead in commissioning meticulous, often life-sized pictures of their birds and animals from three Mughal-trained artists: Shaikh Zain ud-Din, Bhawani Das, and Ram Das. By the time the Impeys left India in 1783, these artists had produced over two hundred works on large sheets of imported English paper, mainly of birds though also of animals, fish and reptiles.