UK imposes export bar on painting of Indian soldiers during World War I
LONDON: Anglo-Hungarian painter Philip de Laszlo’s portrait of two World War I Indian soldiers has been placed under a temporary export ban by the British government to allow a UK firm time to acquire the “stunning and sensitive” work. Preventing people from leaving the country.
The unfinished portrait, valued at around GBP 650,000, depicts cavalry officers Rizaldar Jagat Singh and Rizaldar Man Singh – junior troop commanders in the British Indian Army – who served in the Battle of the Somme in France and are believed to have died in action.
A painting depicting Indian participants in the First World War is extremely rare.
“This stunning and sensitive portrait captures an important moment in our history as soldiers from around the world were drafted in to fight in the trenches of the First World War,” said UK Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Stephen Parkinson.
“I hope this wonderful painting will help tell the story of those brave soldiers in England and the contribution they made to their and the Allied victory,” he said.
Around 1.5 million Indian soldiers were employed during World War I and according to records, the two soldiers in the painting sat for the artist in London two months before they were sent to France to fight in the trenches.
Described as a fine example of a portrait by the famous 20th-century artist, it captures a pivotal moment in British history, when soldiers from across the British Empire came to fight in Europe.
The painting appears to have been created for de László’s own collection and remained in his studio until his death in 1937.
The UK government’s decision to impose the export ban follows advice from the Review Panel on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA).
The committee made its recommendation based on the criteria of its outstanding importance to the study of Indian contribution to the war effort and the individuals involved in it.
“Philip de Laszlo was one of Britain’s most celebrated social painters of the early 20th century. But this sensitive portrait, all the more powerful because of its incompleteness, offers an exceptionally rare view of not maharajas or generals, but two ‘ordinary’ middle-ranking Sikh soldiers about to embark on the horrors of the Battle of the Somme, ” said RCEWA. Member Peter Barber.
“The enormous contribution they and millions of other Indians made to Britain’s war effort between 1914 and 1918 has been largely overlooked until recently and the life stories of de Laszlo’s sitters have yet to emerge. Many more descendants of Indian soldiers now live in Britain, and in many, increasingly important, positions. They present a ‘British’ image,” he said.
According to Barber, the portrait raises general questions of personal and externally perceived British identity.
That this painting, apparently voluntary and unpaid, had special meaning for the artist is suggested by the fact that it remained in his studio until his death.
According to RCEW, the perceptive and deeply personal painting speaks to the British experience on many levels, positive and less positive, and should be in the UK to see, read and experience.
Barber added: “De Laszlo could well have seen the parallels between these outsiders’ loyal service to their imperial master and his own position as a Hungarian Jew of humble birth who had reinvented himself as a patriotic member of British high society.
“Like Indians serving in the British forces, he faced discrimination in the face of growing public racism. Within months of making this portrait, he had been suspected of being a foreign agent for over a year, and unfortunately suffered a nervous breakdown when he was refused permission to paint. Decision on export license application for painting July 13, The postponement will be for a three-month period ending in 2023, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.
At the end of the first deferment period, the owners will have 15 business days to consider any offer to purchase the painting at a recommended price of GBP 650,000. .
The second deferment period begins after the signing of the option agreement and lasts for three months.