About this artwork

Sir Thomas Strange (1756-1841), second son of the great Scottish engraver Sir Robert Strange, trained as a lawyer in England. After serving as Chief Justice of Halifax, Nova Scotia, he was sent to India as Recorder in the court of Madras. There, he oversaw its transformation into the Supreme Court of the Madras Presidency. Strange applied English common law to most civil and criminal cases, but disputes among Indians about contracts and inheritances were resolved with help from Hindu and Islamic legal experts.

After his return to England, Strange sought to systematise their advice on the basis of what he believed were the ‘original principles’ of Hindu law. Strange’s systematic approach enabled colonial judges to respect Indian customs, but only at some cost to their original subtlety and flexibility. The artist, John Hoppner, has portrayed Strange as an educated gentleman rather than a High Court Judge, but with the serious expression appropriate to an eminent legal scholar.

Updated before 2020

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John Hoppner

John Hoppner