Antoine Polier

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Colonel Antoine-Louis Henri de Polier
Col. Polier's Nautch (Lucknow, c.1780), painted by Mihr Chand
Died7 February 1795

Colonel Antoine-Louis Henri de Polier (1741–1795) was a Swiss adventurer, art collector, military engineer and soldier who made his fortune in India in the eighteenth century. He was the father of Count Adolphe de Polier.

Early life[edit]

Claude MartinAntoine-Louis PolierJohann Zoffany
Antoine Polier, General Claude Martin, John Wombwell, assay master, and Johann Zoffany, the painter, surrounded by servants and Polier's art collection.

Antoine-Louis was born in Lausanne[1] from a French Huguenot family who emigrated to Switzerland in the mid 16th century to escape the wars of religion. He was the youngest son of Jacques-Henri de Polier and his wife Jeanne-Françoise Moreau. He later learned Hindi and Persian.

Antoine Polier - OrientalistHassan Resa KhanbackgroundNawab Salar JungClaude Martin - Soldier and polymathNawab Wazir of OudhColonel John MordauntCol. Mordaunt's cockfighterOzias Humphrey - PainterCockfightingJohn Wombwell - East India Co. accountantMr OrrMr. Robert GregoryLieutenant Golding - East India Co. EngineerSeated figureUnknownZoffany - the artistCockfighterMr Gregory's cockfighterUse a cursor to explore or click for larger image
Colonel Mordaunt's cockfight by Johann Zoffany - Some can be identified by hovering the mouse pointer over different individuals in the painting.[2]

Antoine Polier was an engineer from Lausanne who supported the military adventures of Robert Clive and later became a rich trader and loyal supporter of the British Raj administration in Calcutta. He devoted his free moments to collecting rare manuscripts in Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. Many were sent back to France to augment the growing collection in the Royal Library. France was now the center for the study of ancient Indian languages and its 'orientalism' spread to Germany in the early 1800s as Europe began to show a keen interest in early Indian-Persian-Zoroastrian origins.[1] He designed the Bibiyapur Kothi, a royal residence outside of Lucknow.[3]

In India, he had two Indian wives, Jugnu and Zinat,[4] one senior and one junior and three (or possibly, four) children who were all baptized in Calcutta. He acquired a large art collection and became rich working for the Indian royalty. In 1788 he left his Indian wives with his loyal companion and fellow enlightened adventurer, Claude Martin.[4] and settled in France with an unfortunate timing as he arrived in time for the French revolution. Having purchased a chateau and taking a French wife and two children, Charles de Polier and Adolphe de Polier. He was assassinated in Avignon on February 9, 1795, in the terror that followed the French revolution.[5]


His collection of miniatures are in Berlin.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Maya Jasanoff, 'Edge of Empire: Conquest and Collecting on the Eastern Frontiers of the British Empire, 1750-1850' Fourth Estate
  2. ^ Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match  circa 1784-6, Terry Riggs, October 1997,, accessed April 2010
  3. ^ "बिबीयापुर कोठी: अवध का भूला दिया गया नगीना". (in Hindi). Retrieved 2021-01-13.
  4. ^ a b Martin, Claude (2003). A Man of the Enlightenment in 18th Century India: The Letters of Claude Martin, 1766-1800. ISBN 9788178240428. Retrieved 2007-05-17.
  5. ^ William Dalrymple 'Antoines Junior Bibi' Sept 27 2002 Timesonline accessed July 2007

Further reading[edit]

  • A European Experience of the Mughal Orient: The I’jaz-i Arsalani (Persian Letters, 1773–1779) of Antoine-Louis-Henri Polier - Translated with an introduction by Muzaffar Alam and Seema Alavi. Pub.Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-564980-X

Jean-Marie Lafont, Indika. Essays in Indo-French Relations 1630-1976. New Delhi 2000. [An extremely useful book outlining French activities in India during Polier's time] ISBN 81-7304 278 0