Good News for Art Connoisseurs: Indulekha Painting by Raja Ravi Varma to be Unveiled

The legengary artist, Raja Ravi Varma, who is known for his contribution in the modern art in India had made an oil painting while taking inspiration from the first modern novel in Malyalam.

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Today marks the unveiling of the first-ever true copy of the painting 'Indulekha' by the legendary artist Raja Ravi Varma, on the occasion of the 176th birth anniversary of the artist. The unveiling took place at the Kilimanoor Palace, believed to be the birthplace of Raja Ravi Varma in 1848.

The 'Indulekha' painting gained attention from art lovers in 2022, when this previously unreleased artwork depicting the protagonist of the first modern novel in Malayalam literature entered the public domain two years ago. The novel, written by O. Chandu Menon, was published in 1889.

Indulekha Painting



The painting by Raja Ravi Varma draws inspiration from the novel as he creates an oil painting of Indulekha, who is depicted holding a letter addressed to her lover, Madhavan, the hero of the novel, with the salutation 'Dear Madhavan...' dated 1892. The painting, characterized by an over-the-top sense of symmetry and precise attention to micro-details, dates back to the 19th century. Another belief suggests that the famous painting 'Reclining Lady' by Ravi Varma was modeled on Indulekha.

Recently, the painting was restored by Madhan S. of the Heritage Conservation and Research Academy. Reportedly, Rama Varma Thampuran, the secretary of the Kilimanoor Palace Trust, who also oversees the well-being of the Chitrashala (studio), a place that housed Raja Ravi's work, shared plans to showcase the painting on the occasion of his birth anniversary.

However, due to various security concerns, the secretary and the trust decided to unveil only the true copy of the oil painting.

Raja Ravi Varma - a pioneer in the Indian modern art history 



Known as an important figure in the history of modern art in India, Raja Ravi Varma, who hailed from Travancore, is also celebrated for inventing the first oleograph press in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. His paintings depicting Hindu gods and goddesses had a significant influence on their portrayal in art and cinema for many years.

During his upbringing, he would often paint walls out of his fondness for painting, a passion he developed in his childhood. Later, the artist found himself painting in royal courts. Some historians and authors also mention that Ravi Varma, not content with mere aristocracy, was also an entrepreneur!

His artworks found popularity not only among Europeans but also among laymen, who appreciated his work for its simplicity. In a time when lower castes were barred from temples, they found solace in Varma's work.

In addition to Indian mythology, he was admired for highlighting the beauty of South Indian women. Viceroy Lord Curzon honored him with the 'Kaisar-i-Hind' Gold Medal for his service. His paintings can be broadly classified into three categories: portraits, portrait-based compositions, and theatrical compositions based on myths and legends.

Some of his popular paintings include 'A Family of Beggars,' 'A Lady Playing Swarbat,' 'Draupadi Dreading to Meet Kichaka,' 'Girl in Sage Kanwa's Hermitage (Rishi-Kanya),' and 'Jatayu,' among others. Currently, Sasikala Parakka owns the 'Indulekha' painting and is likely to unveil a copy at the event.

In addition to the painting, a portrait of the late member of the Kilimanoor Palace, Pooyam Thirunal C.R. Kerala Varma, by another member of the palace, K. Ravi Varma, along with other paintings of C. Rajaraja Varma and Mangala Bayi, siblings of Raja Ravi Varma, will also be dedicated on the occasion. These portraits and paintings were created by an artist named Suresh.

With inputs from The Hindu, Mid-day and Cultural India.


Raja Ravi Varma Raja Ravi Varma Indulekha