‘Parsi Lady’, last unfinished work of Ravi Varma, to be up for public display

‘Parsi Lady’ being restored at Kilimanoor Palace

‘Parsi Lady’, last unfinished work of Ravi Varma, to be up for public display

On the occasion of the 175th birth anniversary of the legendary artist, the Governor will unveil the painting, restored to its original glory, today. Another yet-to-be-displayed painting, a portrait, too will be in public domain

‘Parsi Lady’ being restored at Kilimanoor Palace

‘Parsi Lady’ being restored at Kilimanoor Palace

‘Parsi Lady’ being restored at Kilimanoor Palace | Photo Credit: SPECIAL AARANGEMENT

An unfinished painting by Raja Ravi Varma, who redefined Indian art traditions during the colonial times, will soon be in the public domain. The painting ‘Parsi Lady’, now owned by the Kilimanoor Palace Trust, was the last painting (unfinished) by the legendary artist. He died on October 2, 1906, inside ‘Chithrashala,’ the artist’s studio at Kilimanoor Palace, leaving the painting unfinished.

Now, the Palace Trust has decided to unveil the painting along with another painting — the portrait of Thriketta Thirunal Uma Amma Thampuratti — which has also not been displayed yet, on the occasion of the 175th birth anniversary of Ravi Varma, who was born into the aristocracy at Kilimanoor in the erstwhile Travancore on April 29, 1848.

Rama Varma Thampuran, general secretary, Kilimanoor Palace Trust, told The Hindu that ‘Parsi Lady’ had a lot of specialities as it provided a glimpse into the Mumbai life of Ravi Varma and his association with people like filmmaker Dada Saheb Phalke, who was then an employee at the press owned by Ravi Varma. “We assume that the painting was a visual adaptation of a Parsi woman he came to know in Mumbai,” said Mr. Thampuran.

His link to Phalke

Ravi Varma wound up his press, sold his property there, and returned to Kerala in 1904 after his younger brother fell ill. Before returning, he gave a substantial amount to Mr. Phalke, sensing his passion for movies, which resulted in the making of Raja Harishchandra, the first full-length Indian feature film, said Mr. Thampuran.

After reaching here, he continued to paint at Chithrashala. He completed many of the paintings he had brought from Mumbai and gifted them, but ‘Parsi Lady’ remained unfinished. The palace has now restored the work with the help of S. Madhan, an art restorer based in Tamil Nadu and a disciple of the late V.N. Selvarehai, senior conservator, National Research Laboratory for Conservation of Cultural Property.

Tools for restoration

“Whatever he left unfinished is now part of history. We have just restored the painting to its original form by removing the old varnish layers and dirt accumulated on the painting over the years by applying organic chemicals. Further, the original paint layers were consolidated using revivable materials,” said Mr. Madhan. The painting will be unveiled by Governor Arif Mohammed Khan at Kilimanoor Palace on Saturday. However, the paintings will be put up for public viewing a month later as the palace authorities will have to arrange appropriate security measures, said Mr. Thampuran.


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