Sir Gore Ouseley – The Ruins of Pagla Phul Bridge

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Pen and ink, point of brush and grey wash with watercolour on wove paper, signed in sepia ink; Gore Ouseley delt “drew” (lower right). Painted c.1790-1805

Sheet: 30.7 x 45.5 cm.
Window: 29.8 x 43.8 cm.
Mount: 45.1 x 59.2 cm.


This famous bridge was built in the 17th century when Dhaka was a seat of Mughal Government. The area has a hot, damp tropical climate and is flooded periodically by waters from the Bay of Bengal as well as from the yearly monsoon. By the 19th century many of the once-elegant buildings in the city were ruined by the action of both the climate and the resultant wildly luxuriant overgrowth of trees and vegetation which lent them a picturesque look and made them popular subjects for artists and photographers.


Ouseley, Sir Gore (1770-1844)

Sir Gore Ouseley, entrepreneur, diplomat, and orientalist (b. 24 June 1770, Monmouthshire, Wales; d. 18 November 1844, Hall Barn Park, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, England). He was the younger brother of the officer and orientalist William Ouseley (1767-1842). The Ouseley's were an Anglo-Irish family who, although impoverished, afforded their two sons a sound private education. In 1787, Gore Ouseley moved to India, became a successful trader, and established in 1792 a textile factory in the Dacca province, Bengal. He was, however, not associated with the East India Company. Ouseley used his leisure time to study languages, especially Persian, Sanskrit, and Arabic, became well-versed in Persian language and customs, and was introduced to the renowned orientalist William Jones (1746-94) who since 1784 had served as judge at the supreme court in Calcutta. Between 1795 and 1796, Ouseley moved to Lucknow, where the Nawwāb-Viziers of Oudh (Awaḏ) maintained their court. Ouseley made the acquaintance of Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḵān (r. 1798-1814), who in turn appointed him as major commandant. Ouseley used his position with the nawwāb-vizier to further British interests, and his services were rewarded by Lord Richard Wellesley (1760-1842), the Governor-General of India (1787-1805), who appointed him as aide-de-camp to Saʿādat ʿAlī. In 1805, Ouseley returned to Britain; and a year later married Harriet Georgina Whitelocke (1787-1848). The couple had two sons and three daughters. Frederick Arthur Gore Ouseley (1825-1889) was a musical prodigy who became a composer and influential educator.