ANDREW NICHOLL R.H.A. (1804-1886)


– CEYLON –

July 1848


These drawings were made by the Irish artist Andrew Nicholl in Ceylon in July 1848. He was accompanying Sir James Emerson Tennent (1804-1869), Colonial Secretary in Ceylon from 1845-1850, on an official tour of the interior of the island. Emerson Tennent had been Nicholl’s patron in Ireland and had brought him out to Ceylon in 1846 to teach drawing and design at the Colombo Academy.

Nicholl set off from Colombo with three others (and the necessary train of jungle support!) to Kandy, the ancient Kingdom in the centre of the island that had been the stronghold of resistance against the Portuguese, Dutch, and then the British. Here they met Emerson Tennent and the botanist George Gardner (1810-1849) and the extended party continued on to Matale, Dumbulla, Polonnaruwa and Anaradhapoora. From Anaradhapoora everyone continued north-east to the coast apart from Nicholl, who remained to draw the ruins.

Nicholl intended to travel back to Kandy and from there take a coach to Colombo. He was staying with the district Judge, Mr Tranchill, who accompanied him as far as Dambulla and sent him on his way with a small team of guides. But, only a few miles outside Dambulla they met fleeing villagers who told them a Rebel King had been crowned and a uprising against British rule had begun. Nicholl fled, with men sent by the King in pursuit. He arrived back in Anaradhapoora after two days in the jungle. From there he took the coastal route to Colombo, where he collapsed with jungle fever.

Nicholl published an account of the July 1848 expedition in the Dublin University Magazine, Vol.40 (1852), pp.527-540. It is a vivid and beautiful description of Ceylon and we encourage anyone who might be interested to read it CLICK HERE.

For a more general biography of Nicholl, including an account of his escape from the Rebel King’s men, we suggest
Martyn Anglesea, ‘Andrew Nicholl and His Patrons in Ireland and Ceylon’, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 71, No. 282 (Summer, 1982), pp. 130-151.


Provenance: All drawings descended through the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh.


A special thanks to Dr Isuru Kariyawasam in Sri Lanka for his help in identifying many of these locations and subjects, and for providing such interesting commentary on them.


  • 1. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; a Gok Kola Thorana made of Palm leaves. This entrance was possibly for a ceremonial occasion and is a tradition still practised today. Pencil. July 1848. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent. 9.25×13.5 inches.
    £375
  • 2. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; ‘Ruins at Roowanywelisaye …’ [Sic. Ruwanweliseya]. This is the Ruwanweliseya in Anuradhapura sacred city before its reconstruction. Made by King Dutugemunu, it is one of the most sacred pagodas / temples in Sri Lanka. Pencil. July 1848. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent. 9.5×13.5 inches.
    £775
  • 3. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; a typical village scene with Coconut Palms, Paddy Fields and Elephants. The man in between two palms in the lower left of the drawing is collecting toddy from the coconut inflorescences. Pencil. July 1848. Inscribed ‘Cribb & Son 288 Holborn’. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent. 10×14 inches.
    £575
  • 4. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; ‘The Raja Elephant’. ‘Raja elephant’ usually refers to an elephant belonging to the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy who carries the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha in the procession. So this is likely Kandy Lake with elephants belonging to the Kandy temple. Pencil. July 1848. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent. 10×14.5 inches.
    £875
  • 5. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; Probably the Dambulla cave temple. This is the cave where King Walagamba sheltered while escaping from Indian/Tamil invaders (103BC). It was later turned into a temple. Pencil. Inscribed ‘Ceylon’ and dated, ‘July 1848’. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent. 6.5×8.75 inches.
    £475
  • 6. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; a road leading to large buildings, possibly near old Colombo or Galle. Pencil. July 1848. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent. 9.25×13.5 inches.
    £575
  • 7. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; ‘Elephant Watch House and fortified Rock of Sigirii…’ [sic. Sigiriya]. Elephant chasing houses (“pala” in Sinhalese) were common in Ceylon where most of the population farmed the land through Chena cultivation. The stations were manned throughout the night to chase away any Elephants or other large animals that might attack their fields. This is still practised in some rural areas. Pencil. Inscribed. July 1848. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent. 9×12.75 inches.
    £575
  • 8. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; Sigiriya Rock. Site of the Palace of King Kashyapa in the 5th Century and now a World Heritage and UNESCO site. Pencil. Inscribed ‘Fortress Rock of Sigiree’ [sic]. Dated, ‘July 13’ and ‘1848’. Inscribed verso. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent. 6.5×10 inches.
    £675
  • 9. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; the entrance of the Lowamahapaaya Temple in the Anuradhapura sacred city. The Lowamahapaaya Temple (Lowa, “metal”. Maha paaya, “huge building”) was a nine-story building built by King Dutugemunu in the 5th Century that housed Buddhist monks. On the floor are scattered Guard Stones suggesting this was the main entrance. Pencil. Inscribed and dated, ‘July 22 1848’. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent. 9.5×13.75 inches.
    £675
  • 10. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; Banyan trees and a village house thatched with hay, probably belonging to a chief villager. Pencil. July 1848. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent.
    £275
  • 11. Nicholl R.H.A., Andrew (1804 – 1886)
    Ceylon / Sri Lanka; ‘[…] Monaragala or Peacock Mountain […]’, the Peacock Rock in Sinhala. Monara is “peacock” and gala is “rock” in Sinhalese. Pencil. Inscribed. July 1848. Provenance: the Emerson Tennant family, Co Fermanagh, and by descent. 10×14.5 inches.
    £475