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Identification and Creation

Object Number
“Putka”, folio from the album Fishes of India
Work Type
c. 1810
Creation Place: South Asia, India, Bengal
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Watercolor and gouache on Whatman paper; Company School
28.58 x 48.26 cm (11 1/4 x 19 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: 11 / Tetradon / Putka / Dq. p.14, vo. Aq, c6
  • inscription: Language: English
    Dq. p.14, vo. Aq, c6

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gweneth Knight Memorial Fund and the William M. Prichard Memorial Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Two small puffer fish are facing each other halfway down the page, just right of the center. The fish on the left is shown in profile, with a green body that is darker at the top and then fades to a cream-colored abdomen. The fish on the right is depicted from both a profile and top view. This distinct perspective simultaneously highlights the fish's eyes, the demarcations on its back, and its flared abdomen. The fish is gray with light and dark blue stripes on its back. The lower half of its body is dark gray which fades to a white abdomen.

There are inscriptions in pen and pencil in the right third of the composition, behind the fish. These inscriptions are oriented vertically, like the album itself. An inscription identifies the fish as “Putka”. Another inscription states, what appears to be “Tetradon”. This could be referring to the family, Tetradontidae. It is possible that the fish represent the species Arothron reticularis from this family, a reticulated puffer fish that is found on the east coast of India.

This work falls into the genre of natural history documentation, an important enterprise undertaken by many European patrons during their time in India. This genre proliferated between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and demonstrate the artist's intention of making quick studies from life. Individual paintings were collected to form an album that documented a variety of animals and plants, thus acting, in a way, as a field guide. Company School.

Publication History

  • Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report 2005-2006 (Cambridge, MA, 2007), p. 16

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2590 South and Southeast Asia, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/21/2015 - 11/03/2015

Verification Level

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at