A Reminder of the Eurasian Community in Colonial India

The subject of this late 18th century Anglo-Indian School portrait, for sale in the Fine Interiors Auction on June 25, is Charles Weston (1731-1810) - the illegitimate son of a British lawyer in Calcutta.

Though not accepted as British subjects, and often excluded from upper social reaches, Eurasians were broadly considered part of colonial society in India. The sons of civil servants and military officers were typically educated and found employment in junior roles.

Portrait of Charles Weston

Weston was apprenticed to the East India Company surgeon and landowner John Zephaniah Howell - best known today as the author of a key account of the horrors of ‘the Black Hole of Calcutta.’ With Howell’s financial help, he started an agency business and after winning a local lottery in 1791 he received a monthly stipend of 3500 rupees. Shrewd property investment allowed Weston - raised a committed Christian - to leave funds to give 'assistance and relief of families labouring under the pressing miseries of poverty, hunger, disease and other painful misfortune’. His epitaph read 'he was a striking example that character and refined sentiments are not confined to complexion or climate’.

The striking 33 x 28cm oil on board was chosen as the cover illustration of 'Poor Relations: The Making of a Eurasian Community in British India 1773-1833' by Christopher Howells (1996), a signed copy of which accompanies the painting that carries an estimate of £500-1000. 

Poor Relations: The Making of a Eurasian Community in British India 1773-1833

It comes for sale from a Norfolk family who had acquired it from London, St James’s dealership Hartnoll & Eyre in 1977 for £120.

 

 

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