Pencil, pen-and-ink and water-colour drawing by George Chinnery (1774-1852) showing Major-General the Hon. Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington) being received in durbar at the Chepauk Palace, Madras, by the Nawab 'Azim al-Daula of the Carnatic, 18th February 1805. Wellesley is being introduced by a languid Lord William Cavendish Bentinck, the Governor of Madras, both figures standing in front of the Nawab seated on his 'masnad,' while sitting on a sofa behind are Admiral Peter Rainier, Commander of the fleet in the East Indies, and General Sir John Caradoc, Commander-in-Chief Madras. Various wives are seated nearby, and other officers and officials of the court stand around. Inscribed in the artist's hand in ink on the drawing: 'Feby. 18, 1805'; and in pencil on the mount: 'A durbar at Madras.' And in William Prinsep's hand: 'By Chinnery.'
The subject is the original composition for a grand historical painting which Chinnery never seems to have begun. The inscribed date indicates that he was an eye-witness to the event. Caradoc had brought out to Madras a letter of congratulation from George III to the Nawab on his ascending the 'masnad' in 1801, an empty honour as the Company had stripped the new Nawab of all power. Chinnery, however, ignores the official occasion for the durbar and presciently concentrates on Wellesley, whose glittering career in India was about to end. Wellesley had arrived in Calcutta with his regiment the 33rd Foot in February 1797, had been given the command of the Nizam's forces in the Fourth Mysore War, and had been in charge of the reserve during the attack on Seringapatam in 1799. He was placed in charge of the captured city and restored it to order. In 1802 with the outbreak of the Maratha War he commanded the Army of the Deccan, and had recently won two of his greatest battles at Assaye and Argaum in 1803, which broke the Maratha power in the Deccan, and had concluded peace treaties leading to great cessions of territory to the Company. His award of the K.C.B arrived at Madras in March 1805. Having declined the Commander-in-Chiefship of Bombay, he had just decided at the time of this drawing to return to England, which he did the following month in Admiral Rainier's flagship. The drawing is possibly one of those which, as William Prinsep relates in his memoirs (Mss Eur D1160, pp. 352-3), Chinnery had left behind in 1825 when he ran away to China. Prinsep and a group of friends had rescued Chinnery from his period of enforced exile at Serampore in fear of his creditors: 'When he ran away to China we found ourselves joint losers of more than 30000Rs. and the public pictures were most of them never painted at all. I found a message left for me that I might realise if I would a few half finished portraits which the badness of his health rendered it impossible for him to do more to. By an accident I found that he had placed his most valuable sketchbooks in the hands of a Frenchman of the name of L'Emarque from whom I easily procured them upon explanation of the circumstances. Chinnery was told they would be sold by auction if he did not redeem them himself which he never did, but circulated a story in China, which of course was run behind, that I had stolen them from him. The sum they and the few pictures alluded to produced was a mere trifle.'