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Used with permission from the Peter Anker Collection held in the Kulturhistorisk Museum at the University of Oslo, Norway.
James Wales prepared two views of Bombay and its environs from within the walls of Sion Fort. In this first Plate [No. 10] there is a panoramic view over the islands and saltpans of the Bombay archipelago. The view looks down from the Sion Fort gate to Bombay and the Neat's Tongue, bounded by the Mahratta Mountains. James Wales infuses the scene with strong domestic setting, depicting a squatting Indian sepoy (possibly smoking a bhang pipe), with his wife nursing a baby, a small child, dog, and two bullocks (for pulling a two-wheel carriage) in a courtyard outside their modest dwelling beside the fort ramparts. The coastline and horizon are barely distinguishable in the suffused light, though in the middle distance the scene is punctured by the distinctive silhouettes of the coconut palms.
The original Sion Fort was built between 1669 and 1677 by the second British governor of Bombay, Gerard Aungier (c1635-1677), on top of a conical hillock, and it marked the northeast boundary between the British-held Parel Island and Portuguese-held Salsette Island.
Lachlan Macquarie recorded in his journal on 5 October 1789 that he had visited Sion:
I went upon a very pleasant Party today, along with Col. and Mrs. Stirling, and Mr. and Mrs. Herring, and a number of Gentlemen, to Meham, [sic] and Sion Fort, where we dined and spent a very agreeable day; From the Fort on Sion Hill, which commands a most extensive view, we had a most charming Prospect of every part of the Island of Bombay, the neighbouring Islands, and Continent, which along with the variety of breaks of water intervening, forms a most beautiful and very Picturesque Scene; Sion Fort is Nine Measured Miles from Bombay Fort and is one of the Extremities of the Island, – being divided only by a very narrow channel from the large Island of Salcet, [sic] belonging also to the Presidency of Bombay. —
I travelled to Sion in a Palanquin, having Eight Bearers – a very easy and comfortable mode of Travelling in this Country. — We all returned in the Evening to Bombay. —"
Twelve Views of Bombay and its Vicinity. London: R. Cribb, 1800.
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