Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition 1857

The following transcript of the description of the above Museum at the 1857 Art Treasures of the United Kingdom Exhibition held in Manchester is taken from the official provisional handbook of the Exhibition pages 194-198:

Crossing the north end of the Transept, the Visitor enters


For which, with its glowing colours and rich ornamentation, the public have to thank in a great measure the liberal kindness of the Honourable East India Company, aided by most valuable contributions from Her Majesty, from the Tower of London, the Royal Asiatic Society, Mr. Fischer, Mr. Faulkner, [1] Messrs. Hewitt, and others. The arrangement of the East India contributions in the Museum have been placed in the hands of Dr. Royle, [2] of the East India House, by whom the very beautiful examples of Oriental ornament have been placed so as to afford an idea of the several varieties of style prevailing in the East.


"Previous to the Great Exhibition of 1851, the great majority of visitors to the present Exhibition would have been more than surprised at hearing that an Oriental collection was to be included among the Art Treasures to be exhibited at Manchester in 1857. But the Paris Exhibition of 1855, as well as that of London in 1851, have shown not only that the East abounds in varied natural products, and in rich manufactures, but that it has inherited and daily practises the various Arts of Design, as well as Harmony of Colouring, and that its productions will not only bear but repay examination, even after a visit to the Art Treasures of the rest of the Exhibition.

But before proceeding to examine the Art Treasures of the Oriental Court, it is desirable to ascertain the countries of the East, which are chiefly represented, and which are the people by whom the various articles exhibited have been designed and manufactured. It is fortunate that the principal contributions are from India and China, as they may be considered the two different but very distinct types of the civilisation of the East. On entering either of the doors from the transept the contributions from India, with a few from Persia, will be found arranged in the cases on the left hand, while those from China, with some from Burma, occupy the right hand side of the Court. A few arms and other articles from Turkey are deposited near the north-west corner of the Court. The walls of the Court are covered in great part with textile manufactures from India, such as mats, carpets, rugs, floor coverings, and chintz palanpores, [3] together with a few pictures by native artists from Agra and Delhi, chiefly contributed by the Honourable East India Company.

"Mats and rugs are in very good employment throughout the East for sitting or sleeping on, and this either in the open air or in the verandahs of their houses. The mats exhibited on the walls are remarkable as well for the fineness of the materials as for the variety of the patterns with which they are wrought. The large mat hung up on the north wall is worthy of notice, not only on account of its size, but also for the skill with which it has been made, and the rich coloured and many patterned border with which it is surrounded. It was manufactured at Madrapore in Bengal. The other mats on the same, as well as on the west wall, were made on the Malabar Coast, and near Cochin.

"On the north wall may also be seen some Indian applications of the great staple of Manchester. Cotton, in India, besides the ordinary, is used for a variety of other purposes, and here we have some specimens of their carpets and rugs. The large carpet conspicuous for its white ground, covered with an elegant pattern and border, is the manufacture of Wurrangul, within the Nizam's territories. [4] The blue and white rug on the right is from Agra, and the pleasingly coloured one on the left from Mooltan. The Sutrumjecs, thought made of cotton, may be compared to hemp-carpeting. They form a very common manufacture in most parts of India. Though usually in stripes of different colours, those from Agra are often very elegantly varied.

"A silk carpet manufactured in Wurrangul, which is in the centre of the east wall, is also to be admired for its pattern and colouring, as are also the woollen rugs to the right from Ellore, near Masalipatam, [5] though not the best specimens of the beautiful carpets and rugs of that place.

"Along with these Indian carpets we must not neglect to notice the shawl-patterned one of wool, which together with the rug below is fixed on the southern wall, as both are the manufactures of the lately much talked of city of Herat. [6] This is famous in the East for its carpets, and not undeservedly so, if we take these as ordinary specimens, or the two small squares to the right of teh rug, which formed a pair of saddle-bags, and in which we may safely admire not only the pattern, but also the harmony and softness of colouring. These characteristics are also most conspicuous in the small carpet to the left of the rug, which is contributed by Sir John McNeill, [7] and which he has stated to be the work of the Turcoman tribe of Serrakhs---an oasis in the desert between the territories of Persia and Bokhara. The tribe is now extinct. The fortress of Serrakhs was taken by the Prince Royal Abbas Meerza, grandfather of the present Shah, in 1833. The carpet was obtained from the Persian soldiers who plundered the place.

"Along with the carpets we must also notice the embroidered floor coverings, which are also much used in the East for the same purposes as carpets. The large ne on the south wall, from Cashmere, is a splendid specimen of embroidery, whether we examine the design or the colouring. The small white one in the upper corner is so also, and is of the [illegible] usually thrown over coffins. Below it is a specimen from Khorassan, showing how widely spread are arts of embroidery in the East.

"On the opposite wall there is an equally favourable specimen of needle-work in leather.

"On the west wall are some specimens of the calico-printing for which India was long famous, but in which she has been surpassed by the application of European science and skill to the improvement of arts, which her people long ago discovered. yet the Palanpore and the Payen carpet which are exhibited, as well as the splendid specimen of printing in gold from Madras, are striking proofs of the skill of living artists.

"These specimens of weaving, of embroidery, and of printing, are only instances of Arts which are extensively practised in most parts of India, and of all of which numerous specimens of great variety may be seen in the two long cases which extend from east to west at the northern side of the Court. There we have the famed muslins of Dacca woven in patterns, both white and coloured, some curiously open, worked with the needle, and some embroidered. These are followed by coloured woven fabrics in ginghams, &c., from Benares, Madras, and Hyderabad in Sindh. Also chintzes, printed muslins, and palampares from Futtehguhr, &c., with some beautiful specimens of printing in gold on muslins where the elegance of the effect, the softness of the material, and the permanence of the gold, even after friction, are all evidences of the skill that has been attained.

"Embroidery with cotton and silk, or with gold and silver thread, are variously represented in the scarfs and shawls from Dreen and Delhi in muslin, net, or cashmere cloth. While from Scinde there are beautifully embroidered book, table, and chair covers.

"Beyond these we have various kinds of silk goods, as employed by the natives for their own wearing. Among which are conspicuous some specimens of double weaving, for which both Benares and Poona are famous. The shawls of Cashmere are sure to command admiration whenever they are seen; and these are followed by the beautiful fabrics of muslin, gauze, and silk, variously embroidered and woven with patterns in silk, silver, or gold, for which Benares and Ahmedabad are both famed in the East.

"We must return, however, to the walls, in order to notice some paintings by native artists--not so much as specimens of skill in the art, as instances of what they are capable of doing if they had had the benefit of instruction, or even seen any of the wondrous marvels of their art, which are now contained in the same building with their own productions. First, we may notice a series, of what may be considered rather as architectural drawings, of some of the tombs, mosques, and palaces of the North-West of India. Many of these are magnificent specimens of the architecture introduced into India by its Mahomedan conquerors. With these we may contrast, though by European hand, the drawings of the exterior and interior of Hindoo temples from as far south as Madsura and Ramiserom, opposite of Ceylon. Also a few of the long series of paintings, and photographs of the temples and cone temples of Southern and Western India, which have fortunately been made by the orders of the Court of Directors of the East India Company.

"The small paintings on the Eastern wall represent--a native family of rank with their attendants witnessing a Natcht, a native dance. Here the various attitudes and expressions as well as costumes are favourable specimens of what the native artists are capable of, especially as all is combined with harmony of colouring. Their power of taking likenesses and of giving expression may be seen in the group of miniatures of two of the Emperors of Delhi, of many of the chiefs, and of an eastern beauty. The central drawing is interesting as giving a view of one of the Emperors of Delhi with all his attendants on a grand court day. With this we may compare the interesting drawings on the southern wall, of the Shah of Persia, contributed by Sir John McNeill. These were copied from a room in the Shah's palace of Negaristan, near Teheran, the present capital. The long pictures are copies from the two sides, and the central one from the end of the room or gallery. The whole represents the Shah seated on his throne, surrounded by his sons, and attended by his sword-bearer, shield-bearer, cup-bearer, rifle-bearer, and other officers of the household; on the lower compartment and on the east side are the ministers of state, foreign ambassadors, and the nobles of the Court in their proper court costume, assembled on a solemn occasion of a 'Now Roy' or new years day, which is the vernal equinox. The three European ambassadors represented in each of the large pictures are intended for English and French, but the artist never having  seen a European, took the costume from some old Dutch prints, and added the red cloth boots, which are the indispensable part of the Court dress, though usually worn by Europeans under their trousers. All the Asiatic costumes, Sir John remarks, are of wonderful accuracy, and almost all the figures are portraits and can almost all be recognised by person who knew the men. They include nearly every remarkable man of the last generation who resided at or belonged to the Court of Futteh Ali Shah.

"Returning to the Cases on the floor, we may first notice that containing specimens of Indian jewellery, which has been selected, not so much on account of its value, as to show the peculiar style of ornaments worn by the natives of India--both men and women--as seen in the portraits on the wall. Among these we have bracelets and armlets, as well as anklets and toe-rings. Nose-rings and ear-rings are likewise worn, as well as forehead ornaments of which there are some elegant specimens. The gold rose chain and bracelets of Trichinopoly are not only handsome but excellent specimens of skilful workmanship. We must not fail to observe how beautifully some of the native jewellery is enamelled, even on the under-surface, and which cannot be seen when the articles are worn. Some articles, again, are shown as skilful imitations of precious stones, in which, as in many other arts, the natives of India excel.

"Indian workmen are also famed for their filigree work, and some pleasing specimens of brooches, bracelets, &c., are shown, and larger specimens of the same work are seen in silver boxes and essence-holders. Great elegance of form is displayed in the Goolabor or holders of rose-water, with which it is the habit to sprinkle guests as they take their departure.

"In the same Case with the Indian jewellery is a miniature of the Shah of Persia, with some beautiful specimens of Persian enamelling, contributed by Sir John McNeill, also some bracelets made of polished agate, &c., with cuneiform inscriptions.

"In the small Case near the South-east corner are some beautiful specimens of enamelling, as well as of inlaying, likewise of working and inlaying such hard materials as crystal and jade.

"The collection of Oriental arms, graciously contributed by Her Majesty the Queen and by H.R.H. Prince Albert, contains some magnificent specimens of twisted and of wire gun-barrels, as well as of what are called Damascene blades -- they are made of the famous Indian or Wootz steel-- also of working patterns in steel as well as inlaying in with gold and silver. Those with the arms, contributed by the East India Company and several noblemen, must give a high idea of the skill of the Indian workman. They would appear to belong to different ages of the world, but are all actually in use in India in the present day. Thus we have bows and arrows and shields of various materials, some of the last most elaborate specimens of workmanship--chain, scale, and plate armour, helmets, spears, and battle-axes, with daggers in every variety. Some of them display in a remarkable manner the skill of the cutler, as for instance, the sword in which pearls are let into the centre of its blade, and still more, the daggers contained one within another, all of hard steel, with the line of junction so beautifully welded as to be hardly perceptible, even with a magnifying glass; as also in the dagger, which on striking separates into five blades, as these, when closed, are brought into the nicest juxta-position. The best arms are fabricated chiefly along the North-west frontier of India, but also in the Nizam's territory, and even as far south as Burma. The gunsmiths of Manghya and Agra make very good imitations externally of European pistols and fowling-pieces.

"Workers in precious metals and in steel are not likely to fail with the other metals, and therefore we are not surprised at meeting with beautiful forms even in the copper and brass ware of ordinary use, though it is remarkable to observe how correct must be their knowledge of the proper mixture of bell-metal, as evidenced in the fine tones of the bells exhibited, which are from Bellony and Tanjina.

"In the other cases placed in the lower part of the room, specimens are displayed of the skill of the natives in carving, whether it be blackwood furniture, sandal-wood, ebony, horn, or ivory boxes; among the ivory carving may be seen very excellent representations of both the elephant, camel, and bullock, as well as of a few of the heron figures. It is often said that they cannot execute anything good of the kind. The box being inlaid work both of gold and silver, has long been famous, as are also the boxes, backgammon-boards of ivory and tortoiseshell, and of ivory, and of horn; so likewise the work-box and writing-desk, made of porcupine quills. Among the latter is a beautiful inlaid chess-table from Colonel Meyrick.[8] The lacquered work from Scinde is also conspicuous for the rarity as well as the beauty of the patterns displayed upon it. This is still more conspicuous in the papier-mâché work from Cashmere, as displayed in the shawl-patterned tray and the pen-and-ink-holders, which are usually worn in the waist-belt. With these are displayed some curious specimens of the playing-cards in use by the natives.

"In the centre of the room, we have, within the tent, some of the most gorgeous specimens of Indian embroidery in velvet and gold, as well as some of their silk, gauze, and their khab works in gold and silver; also emblems of royalty, fly-flappers, &c., while on the other side are some trophies of excellent arms. Still inside and out some specimens of the richly-carved furniture, and flower-stands, from Bombay, which is called Blackwood, but which is the wood of a tree called Dalbergia latifolia.

"Our space will not allow us to do justice to the remaining countries which are here represented, even if we had materials sufficient for the purpose. But the contributions being from individuals, they of course keep only such things as are suited to their collections.

"But, first, we may notice a few contributions from Burma, Pegu, [9] and Siam, as these lie between India and China. From Burma we have a gold neck-chain, with brooches inlaid with rubies, and a fabric of silk and of cotton, which is remarkable for its wavy pattern, with a mixture of colours very different from the Indian.

"From Pegu there is on the wall near the north-east corner a blue silk coverlet, with strange figures embroidered on it, but in the jewel-case the gold necklaces, ear-knobs, and scent-boxes, as well as engraved gold cup, display great taste in the arrangement of their patterns, as well as skill in the management of their materials.

"Siam is represented by two elegantly inlaid levée-à-belle nut trays, and a silver cup inlaid with gold so as to produce a very tasteful effect.

"China, one of the most anciently civilised of countries, is represented by many choice specimens of the arts which she has discovered, and so successfully cultivated. The silk manufacture of China was probably never better represented than by the silk shawl, of which shrubs, and flowers, birds, and butterflies are embroidered with a truth ann [sic- and] richness of colouring worthy of the objects selected. This shawl was being prepared doi prepared [sic] for the Exhibition of 1851, but not having been ready in time, in now first exhibited.

"Of the porcelain of China there are two beautiful specimens from Her Most Gracious Majesty; of the famed enamelling of China there are some splendid vases, generally of blue, but one in yellow enamel. Of the well-known bronzes China, there are a variety of excellent specimens from the collections of S. Addington, Esq., F. Pulszky, [10] Esq., D. Davidson, and C. Maltby, Esq.

"Of the great skill of the Chinese in carving there are a few beautiful specimens in ivory, as in a work-basket, chessmen standing on the balls carved one within another, of which there is also a separate specimen; so also in fans, and in various specimens of wood carving.

"The Chinese, like the natives of India, are skilful in working and polishing the hard and intractable jade--a mineral found in moderate sized masses in the table land of Tibet. This, it is believed, both effect by first boring small holes with steel and diamond pointed augers, chipping away the intervening pieces, and then polishing with korundum dust. Of the jade work of China there are here many elaborately worked specimens. In this brief review we must not forget two articles presented by the Emperor Kien-lung to Sir G. Staunton--when as a little boy he accompanied his father at the audience of the British Embassy in 1792--one is a Chinese sceptre of good fortune, made of jade, and the other is an embroidered purse, formerly worn by the Chinese Emperor himself. [11]

"We cannot conclude better than with drawing attention to the complete suit of armour in lacquered ware from Japan, which is little calculated to resist either the arms on the other side of the Court, or those of European assailants. It is contributed by Her Most Gracious Majesty from the armoury at Windsor Castle."

J.B. Waring. [12]


[1] Possibly George Faulkner (1790-1862), industrialist and philanthropist, based in Manchester.

[2] John Forbes Royle (?1798 or 1799-1858) of the East Indian Company. Surgeon and naturalist, one of the Commissioners for the City of London in 1851 exhibition, and superintended the oriental department of Paris exhibition of 1855. He was interested in manufacturing and botany.

[3] Palanpores [sic] Palampore: a type of hand-painted and mordant-dyed bed cover that was made in India for the export market

[4] Wurrangul and the Nizam: Warangal, Andhra Pradesh in India. Part of the Princely State of Hyderabad from 1724 alongside British India. The Nizams were the rulers of Hyderabad, Nasir-ud-Daula, Asaf Jah IV ruled from 1829, and Afzal-ud-Daula, Asaf Jah V from May 1857.

[5] Ellore is Eluru, Andhra Pradesh, India; Masalipatam: Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India

[6] Anglo-Persian War of 1856-57

[7] Sir John McNeill (1795-1883) diplomat and surgeon.

[8] Lieutenant-Colonel Augustus Meyrick who inherited Meyrick's collection, Samuel Rush Meyrick (1783-1848) Antiquary and historian of arms and armour

[9] Pegu: Now part of Myanmar/ Burma, annexed by Britain in 1852.

[10] Ferenc Pulszky (1814-1897), Hungarian politician and writer

[11] Emperor Qianlongdi (1711-1799) , Sir George Thomas Staunton (1781-1859) Sinologist and politician.

[12] John Burley Waring (1823-1875) Architect, superintendent of the works of ornamental art and sculpture in the Manchester exhibition of 1857.

Transcribed by AP December 2011

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