Tamarind tree

The seeds of the tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica), which are carried in brown, knobbly pods up to 15 cm long, are surrounded by a sharp-tasting, sugary pulp which is used candied, in chutneys and in drinks. The fresh pulp is rich in vitamin C, niacin and riboflavin.

Tamarind is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a mild laxative and burnt bark is sometimes mixed with salt to relieve stomach ache. An infusion of the leaves is also used as an antiseptic on burns and external sores.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries the East India Company controlled much of the Indian subcontinent. Keen to exploit and export valuable natural commodities, the Company set out to record the flora of India and commissioned Indian artists to create detailed botanical illustrations. Many of the plants were known through their use in Ayurvedic medicine. One of the world’s oldest medicinal systems, it has been practised in India for 3,000 years.

Company School style paintings became popular with wealthy Europeans. It was not uncommon for East India Company officials (who were not employed as medics or botanists) to build their own personal collections of paintings depicting Indian flora and fauna. We cannot be sure how local amateur botanist Richard Cresswell came by this collection of 86 Company School works. It is possible Henry Creighton commissioned them during his time as a judge in Calcutta and that on his death the works came back to the UK with his daughter Frances who later married Richard Cresswell.

Some drawings in this collection, including this one are signed on the reverse. The artist’s name, Ram Das, is written in English and Bengali. He is known to have worked for Lady Mary Impey, wife of Sir Elijah Impey the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Calcutta. It is probable that Creighton and Impey knew each other.

Object Summary

Accession Loan No.
19/1927/2/55
Collection Class
Drawings
Medium
watercolour on paper
Common Name
tamarind tree
Simple Name
drawing
Inscription Transcription
HERB. MUS. EXON CRESSWELL COLLECTION 19/1927; Tamarindus indica Linn; No 55
Period Classification
George III (1760-1811)
Production Town
Calcutta
Production County
Bengal
Production Country
India
Production Person Surname
Ram Das
Production Year Low
1780
Production Year High
1810

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FABACEAE: Tamarindus indica: tamarind