Thursday, September 24, 2015

"Lord Clive receiving from the Nawab of Bengal" by Edward Penny

Edward Penny was a noted British artist of the 18th Century.  He was born in 1714 and died in 1791.  He painted military subjects and was known to be accurate in his details. The Seven Years' War comprised some of his subject matter.  While fighting raged in Europe and North America, the Seven Years’ War was also fought in India.  During the war, a young man named Robert Clive rose to command some of the Company’s troops and scored an important victory at Plassey.  Clive’s forces contained regular British soldiers, Englishmen who served the Company, and natives who served the Company. These last were known as Sepoys.

This painting is titled “Lord Clive receiving from the Nawab of Bengal a grant of money for disabled officers and soldiers.” Edward Penny also painted another canvas about high-ranking military leaders helping sick soldiers.  Read about it here:

Robert Clive stands in the center of the painting, with Mir Jafar, the Nawab of Bengal.  The strange looking knife in the Nawab’s sash is known as a katar (or kattary).  Clive returned to England in 1772, and Mir Jafar died in 1765, so this painting must be between 1757-1765. In other words, it is set during the era of the Seven Years’ War.  The uniforms of the East India Company in the Seven Years’ War are poorly recorded, so this painting may provide several important clues. 

The seated man in blue is an artilleryman of the British Royal Artillery (1).  The two soldiers standing in the back of the group are European infantry raised in Bengal (2).  By looking closely behind the artilleryman’s head, a sepoy’s head and turban can be made out.  His jacket is red and his turban is white with a blue center.  

With infantry, artillery, and sepoys in the painting, the last seated figure is likely to be a cavalryman.  The EIC did raise some units of European cavalry (3, 4).  Furthermore, his uniform is unlike any known British regular cavalry unit (5).  He appears to be wearing short gaiters over his shoes.  His coat is red, with red lapels and cuffs, and gold buttons, but no lace on the buttonholes.  His waistcoat is blue with gold lace edging the buttonholes.  His hat is black with gold trim.  It is quite possible that Edward Penny painted him to record the uniform of the Company’s European cavalry.

To the right of the group of soldiers is a European woman and three children.  They are likely the family of one of the soldiers.

(1)  Uniforms of the Seven Years War by John Mollo and Malcolm McGregor (Blandford: 1977) pgs. 92, 157-158
(4)  Armies of the East India Company 1750-1850 by Stuart Reid (Osprey: 2010) pg. 23

(5)  A History of the Uniforms of the British Army by C. C. P. Lawson (Kaye & Ward Ltd: 1971) pgs. 107-150, especially pg. 120

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Marquess of Granby Helping a Sick Soldier by Edward Penny

Edward Penny was a noted British artist of the 18th Century.  He was born in 1714 and died in 1791.  He painted military subjects and was known to be accurate in his details. The Seven Years' War comprised some of his subject matter.  The war officially began when Frederick of Prussia attacked Austria.  Soon Prussia, Hanover, and some smaller German states were fighting Austria, France, Russia, and Sweden, with their German allies.  Great Britain sent British troops to help defend Hanover.  This was dubbed the “Glorious Reinforcement.”
This painting shows John Manners, the Marquis of Granby, helping a sick soldier.  Granby was commander of the British cavalry until he was promoted to command all British troops in Germany.  He was colonel of the Royal Horse Guards, and is painted in the uniform of that corps.  While most of the British army wore red, the elite Horse Guards had blue coats.  He has a coin in his right hand which he is about to give to the sick man’s wife.

The soldier is most likely from Brudenell’s 51st Foot.  Brudenell’s 51st is not to be confused with Pepperell’s 51st.  Pepperell’s was raised in the 13 Colonies in 1755 and disbanded in 1756 after being captured at Fort Oswego.  Brudenell’s was raised in 1755 and, when Pepperell’s 51st was disbanded, the number was given to Brudenell’s. (1) While all British infantry regiments wore red breeches, this soldier wears green, which author Stuart Reid explains might be “a regimental affectation by a new-raised regiment.” (2)  Near the soldier are his wife and two children.  One clings to her mother’s skirt while the other looks pleadingly at the Marquis of Granby.


2.   pg. 45 of Frederick the Great’s Allies 1756-1763 by Stuart Reid (Osprey:2010)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Death of James Wolfe by Edward Penny

Edward Penny was a noted British artist of the 18th Century.  He was born in 1714 and died in 1791.  He painted military subjects and was known to be accurate in his details. The Seven Years' War comprised some of his subject matter, and no part of the Seven Years' War was more dramatic than the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham.  In that battle, British General James Wolfe and his army climbed the cliffs of Quebec and landed on the Plains of Abraham.  From this position, they could attack and conquer the city of Quebec on its landward side.  The French general the Marquis de Montcalm attacked Wolfe's men on the Plains.  In the ensuing battle, the British demolished the French attack and both commanders were mortally wounded.

This painting shows James Wolfe in a plain red coat.  His right hand is bandaged from a wound suffered earlier in the day.  He is supported by a volunteer named James Henderson, of the grenadier company of the 28th Regiment.  The man in green is Surgeon's Mate Hewitt. (1)  Just to the left of Wolfe is a man running with his hat in his hand.  He is Lieutenant Brown of the 22nd Regiment's grenadier company and he announced the news of the victory to Wolfe.

Interestingly, both grenadiers wear caps with some sort of circular motif, much like the British Order of the Garter.  David Morier in a series of paintings c. 1751 depicts the 28th's grenadier caps with a "GR" (for George Rex, rex meaning king).  He has no hint of circular badges.  Could these unique caps have been issued for service in North America?  Or could this be a regimental distinction which the 28th adopted?

On the far left of the picture, a sergeant (with a halberd) or an officer (with a spontoon) watches the fire of his men.  By looking very carefully, some Frenchmen and their flag can be seen withstanding the British firing line.  Just behind Volunteer Henderson's shoulder is a man in a cut-down tricorn hat and short blue coat.  He is likely a sailor, for a detachment of sailors was landed to help Wolfe with the cannons.

(1). pg. 82, Quebec 1759 by Stuart Reid (Osprey: 2003)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Beyond the Mask--East India Company's Guards

This is a drawing I recently completed of a private soldier of the East India Company's guards from the movie Beyond the Mask. There are at least two types of the Company's soldiers in this movie: one in red coats with blue cuffs and lapels with white lace, and one with black and grey.

These men in black coats with grey cuffs and lapels are Charles Kemp's elite guards, unlike the men in red coats and blue cuffs.  The men with grey cuffs were probably chosen based on their excellent service in India.  These men were trusted with keeping Charles Kemp safe and guarding his property and living quarters. In the movie, they can be seen driving the Company's carriage, accompanying Mr. Kemp to church, and working at Kemp's property in the New World.  Charles Kemp was their colonel, and their cuffs were grey, so if they had a nickname, it would probably be "Kemp's Greys."

This uniform was not worn by the historic East India Company's troops.  For the real uniform, visit

Drawing by Jordan Jachim