Seventeen black-and-white pencil portraits of Tibetans by Antony Brett-James, including one of the sirdar Lobsang, who took part in the 1938 Everest expedition; with two portraits of Naga natives.

Antony Brett-James (1920-1984), 5th Indian Division Royal Signals, military historian and Sandhurst lecturer [Lobsang (d.1945), Tibetan Sirdar; Himalayan Club; Everest Expedition, 1938]
Publication details: 
Executed in in Darjeeling (11), Dentam (1), Kewzing (1), Namchi (1), Phalut (1), Tanglu (1) and Naga (2) in 1943 (10), in 1944 (2) and 1945 (4).
SKU: 16927

A feature of Brett-James's well-received war memoir 'Report My Signals' (1948) was the fifteen reproductions of his pencil drawings of Indian men who served under him. None of the portraits present here feature in that book or have been reproduced elsewhere, but those published in the book give an excellent idea of Brett-James's skill at conveying character in well-executed pencil sketches. The nineteen drawings in this collection are all in good condition, on aged paper, with occasional light creasing. Eleven are in 8vo, and eight in 12mo. Eighteen of the nineteen are signed by Brett-James with his monogram initials. Four of the 8vo portraits have a few features picked out in colour. Having commanded the Madrassi Signals of 123 Brigade in a drive through central Burma to Rangoon, Brett-James sought - as described in RMS, pp.310-328 - to 'recover from a sickness' by travelling in April and May of 1945 'up to the hills', setting out 'out with a Dutch companion, sirdars and porters to trek through the state of Sikkhim, to see the snows of Everest and Kanchenjunga, and to glory in rhododendron trees and sublime scenery' (RMS, p.309). Five of the nineteen pencil drawings in this collection are portrait heads of Tibetans encountered on that journey, executed in Dentam, Kewzing, Namchi, Phalut and Tanglu. All five are dated by Brett-James, with the names of the sitters given as: 'Lob Song. Tibetan Sirdar' [i.e. the 'well-known sirdar named Lobsang, who accompanied the 1938 Everest Expedition as far as Camp Six', depicted here by Brett-James 'wearing the Himalayan Club bronze medal', RMS, p.315], 'Gyalgen. Sherpa Sirdar' [RMS, pp.314-323], 'Subha Rai. Nepali Sirdar' [RMS, pp.314, 320, 322-327], 'Song Yol. Lepcha Chowkidar' and 'Netuk. Lepcha'. A further twelve portrait heads (four in 8vo and eight in 12mo) date from a visit by Brett-James to Darjeeling in August 1943. Two of the twelve (both 8vo) are captioned: 'Sherpa Ponywallah' and 'Tibetan Wanderer'. The last two portraits in the collection (both 8vo) were executed in Naga in December 1944: 'Zakkah Hai. A Naga hillman' (with red shawl and orange necklace) and 'Naga Roadmender'.