Surgeon Anthony Dickson Home and Assistant Surgeon William Bradshaw, 90th Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Volunteers) (Light Infantry), Lucknow, 1857. Oil on canvas, by Louis William Desanges (1822-1905), 1860 (c). Courtesy of the National Army Museum, London. Accession no. NAM. 1958-12-49-1.
The 1857 uprising in India undoubtedly produced acts of heroism as well as acts of brutality. During the siege of Lucknow, for example, these two medical men had managed to get help for the wounded under extremely dangerous conditions, and both were later awarded the Victoria Cross. The museum quotes from the London Gazette of 18 June 1858:
The dooly bearers had left the doolies (covered stretchers), but by great exertions, and notwithstanding the close proximity of the sepoys, Surgeon Home and Assistant-Surgeon Bradshaw, got some of the bearers together, and Assistant-Surgeon Bradshaw with about twenty doolies becoming separated from the rest of the party, succeeded in reaching the Residency in safety by the river bank.
The British enjoyed such stories, and Desanges, of aristocratic French origins but born and settled in Britain, became well known (and is best known now) for his series of 55 dramatic paintings of Victoria Cross winners. They were shown at the Crystal Palace in Sydenham during the 1860s and 1870s, and can be seen as narrative paintings or genre paintings of a particular kind. They were not the only ones, nor was he the only artist to paint scenes of the various military engagements in India. Joany Hichberger suggests that such work occupies "an interesting and unexplored region as 'works of art' which entertained and informed a middle-class audience eager for affirmation of its self-confident militarism and patriotism" (50).
Text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the National Army Museum and (2) mention this site. Click on the image to enlarge it.
- The Flight from Lucknow, by Abraham Solomon
- The 78th Highlanders at the taking of Sucunderabagh, Siege of Lucknow, by Orlando Norie
- The Epic of the Race: The Indian Uprisings of 1857
- Representations of the Indian Mutiny in Higher Victorian Journalism
Hichberger, Joany. "Democratising Glory? The Victoria Cross Paintings of Louis Desanges." Oxford Art Journal 7/2 (1984): 42-51. Accessed via Jstor.
"Surgeon Anthony Dickson Home and Assistant Surgeon William Bradshaw, 90th Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Volunteers) (Light Infantry), Lucknow, 1857." National Army Museum. Web. 30 May 2020