Bhawani Das (c. 1778-1782)
Rohi or Rohu Fish
Watercolor on paper
Paper size: 17 3/4 x 12 inches
Framed: 27 x 21 1/4 inches
The reverse of the painting is stamped with Sir Elijah Impey’s seal
Paper watermarked, “J Whatman”
Text beneath image has been confirmed by Professor Saeed Alizai to be written in Urdu. It states that the type of fish is a Moraila and mentions the name Bhawani Das.
This is the most famous locally know fresh water "Rao" fish of Indus River.
Professor Saeed Alizai is the colleague of Nehru E. Cherukupalli, Emeritus Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Brooklyn College.
The fish species portrayed is the Rohi or Rohu, a fish of the carp family Cyprinidae, found commonly in rivers and freshwater lakes in and around South Asia and South-East Asia. It is a herbivore. It is treated as a delicacy in Bangladesh, Nepal and the Indian states of Bihar, Orissa, Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. The Maithil Brahmins and the Kayastha community of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh treats it as one of their most sacred foods: to be eaten on all auspicious occasions. It is called rahu in Nepali.In Hindi it is called rehu (rawas is the Indian Salmon, which is quite different). It is called rohi in Oriya, rui in Bengali, rou in Assamese and Sylheti, rohu itself in Malayalam, and is reared in Kerala. It is popular in Thailand, Bangladesh, northern India and Pakistan. It is a non-oily/white fish.
During the years that he spent as Chief Justice of the English colony of Bengal, Sir Elijah Impey and his wife Mary commissioned a unique and highly important collection of original Indian artwork. Recognizing a profound level of talent in several Indian artists, the Impeys employed several to paint the striking, exotic flora and fauna of the area.
Ram Das worked primarily alongside his brother, Bhawani, and also with the Muslim artist Shaikh Zayn-al-Din, in painting the images for Sir Impey's collection. These three artists were trained in the Mughal tradition of the Persian court painters, and all three demonstrated outstanding talent for capturing detail and color.
An unprecedented style emerged with Ram Das' work, and the project produced magnificent results. Previously no Mughal artist would ever have placed a bird detached from a landscape setting on a white background, while no European artist would ever have bestowed on his subjects, such character and animation. Ram Das and his two colleagues approached ornithological illustration from an unconventional standpoint. They abandoned the practice of using stuffed specimens as a basis for their study, and instead injected a ground-breaking vitality into their birds. Their work is considered to be of fundamental importance to the development of European natural history painting, both artistically and scientifically.
Sir Impey and his wife Mary were the first European patrons of Indian natural history painting, and are still considered to be the most important. These two exceptionally rare watercolors come from a group that the Impeys brought back to England in 1783. Today, other watercolors from their collection can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Radcliffe Science Library in Oxford, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Binney Collection in San Diego, while a very small number remain in private collections. This striking watercolor represents a landmark moment in the evolution of natural history painting, and are an unequaled opportunity for collectors.