We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting


Itinerant acrobats

circa 1770


Company school


late 18th century – late 19th century

  • Details

    Other Titles
    The buffet game
    Mock fight
    Place where the work was made
    Thanjavur (Tanjore) Tamil Nadu India
    Cultural origin
    Company school; probably by a Muslim artist working in Thanjavur
    circa 1770
    Media categories
    Painting , Watercolour
    Materials used
    opaque watercolour with gold and silver on paper
    22.8 x 18.1 cm image; 28.4 x 23.1 cm sheet
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Mr George Sandwith 1957
    20th-century galleries (lower level 1)
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Company school

    Works in the collection


  • About

    The acrobats are typical of those numerous sets of depictions of castes and occupations so much favoured by European patrons of Indian painters in the early nineteenth century. In this striking image all attention is focused on the woman balancing on top of the pole. Below her, providing a drum roll to intensify the drama of the act is a drummer playing a double-headed drum that's v-shaped lacing is clearly visible. Both women wear the long saris typical of the Maharashtran region of western India; the saris are long enough for women to be able to wind them between their legs, so achieving a pantaloon effect. The style enables the ease of movement necessary in acrobatic routines as illustrated here but also allowed Maratha women to ride astride on horses and fight in various military campaigns in the eighteenth century.

    Jim Masselos, 'Dancing to the flute - Music and dance in Indian art', AGNSW, 1997. pg. 248.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 6 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 4 publications

  • Provenance

    Warren Hastings, circa 1770-1818, England, possibly commissioned in Madras (Chennai), India by Hastings between 1769 and 1772. Probably exported from India to England, 1785 or before. Held in the collection of Warren Hastings until his death in 1818.

    Marian Hastings, 1818-1837, England, inherited from Warren Hastings.

    Charles von Imhoff, 1837, England, inherited from Marian Hastings.

    Private Collection, pre Aug 1853, England, purchased by a resident on the estate of Daylesford House from a sale of the contents of Daylesford House, Worcestershire (Gloucestershire from 1931), 22–27 August 1853 or before.

    George Sandwith, 1939-18 Apr 1958, England, purchased on the estate of Daylesford House, Gloucestershire, 1939. Presented by Mr George Sandwith FRGS to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. 25 October 1957, received 18 April 1958.

Other works by Company school

See all 45 works