The Fruit and Leaf of a Fig Tree

Artist/maker unknown, Indian

Made in Calcutta (present-day Kolkata), West Bengal, Bengal Region, India, Asia

c. 1795-1800

Opaque watercolor on paper

21 x 14 1/2 inches (53.3 x 36.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Bequest of Dean Walker, 2006

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Toward the end of the eighteenth century, British officials living in India commissioned Indian painters to make images of local flora and fauna. Following the precedents of British wildlife and botanical illustration, these pictures document species with scientific precision. Usually the subject floats on a plain paper background and several views are included in the same illustration. Identified in the English inscription on the reverse, Ficus macrophylla is a type of fig tree common in central and western Nepal as well as other parts of Asia, which bears fruit in clusters from spurs that protrude from the branches.

Natural history drawings were not only beautiful works of art, but also an effective way to promote the wonders of the subcontinent. As a result, a whole range of actual specimens were imported to European parks and gardens, and Indian flora and fauna were transformed into favorite ornamental motifs for British fabrics and decorative objects.