Major James Nathaniel Rind (d.1813), thence by descent
Mrs. S. Richardson and Mrs. S. M. Norman
Sotheby's, London, 13 July 1971, no. 36
Niall Hobhouse, London
Francesca Galloway, London
The Cobra de Capello is one of the most dangerous and highly venomous snakes found in India. It is sometimes known as the 'hooded snake,' as its neck rises to form a hood over its head, as illustrated in this watercolor. The spreading hood displays the cobra’s distinctive black-and-white markings like a pair of spectacles. The serpent is depicted here with its forked tongue extended and its body marked with brown scales on a yellow ground.
The Cobra de Capello feeds on a variety of animals, but it preys mostly on rodents--this is why they are sometimes found near human dwellings, entering buildings and climbing on roof tops and trees in search of their favorite prey. They also eat small mammals, birds and bird eggs, frogs, toads, lizards, and even other snakes (including other venomous snakes).
References to snake (naga) deities are found in Hindu mythology and folklore. Snakes symbolize re-birth and eternity because of their ability to slough their skins. They are associated with two main Hindu deities, Shiva and Vishnu, and worshipped for their divine connections. Prayers are offered to snakes on the fifth day of Shravan, the fifth month in the Hindu calendar (usually between July and Augus), a month dedicated to Shiva.
This illustration was formerly in the collection of Major James Nathaniel Rind (d.1813), an officer in the army of the East India Company. He was in India from 1778 to 1804, and while serving in the 18th (and later 14th) Native Infantry he was engaged in surveys of Company territory between 1785 and 1789. Although initially for administrative purposes, these surveys became a means of gathering scientific knowledge about plants, birds, and animals in the region. Rind became a Brigade Major in Calcutta in 1801 and assembled a large collection of natural history drawings while posted in Calcutta between 1793 and 1801. Many of the drawings, such as this one, have his initials ‘JNR’ inscribed in pencil on the reverse. A large part of the Rind collection was sold at auction by his descendants at Sotheby’s, London, in 1971.