About this artwork

George Willison travelled to India in 1772 and became the official painter of the Mohamed Ali Khan Walejah, Nawab of the Carnatic. Between 1774 and 77 Willison received at least eight commissions for portraits of Mohamed Ali for which he was paid over £17,000. The Nawab was fabulously wealthy, as might be guessed from this image. His robes are threaded with pearls and he wears some very impressive diamonds. Just as the picture successfully melds western conventions of painting with a proudly eastern sitter, so the Nawab introduced some British ways to his court: tea at breakfast and sitting on chairs, rather than cushions.

George Willison

George Willison

Edinburgh-born George Willison was much aided in his career by his wealthy uncle, George Dempster, who sponsored his nephew's training in Edinburgh and, from 1760 to 1767, in Rome. Willison returned to work in London until Dempster, who was Director of the East India Company, secured a post for him at the court of Mohamed Ali Khan Walejah, Nawab of the Carnatic. By the time Willison returned to Edinburgh, he was a wealthy man. Willison was primarily a painter of portraits, although examples of mythological subjects are also known.