Portrait of An Iyer Lady

Neelakanta Pillai1937

Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation
Bengaluru, India

Popular for his historical paintings, Pillai is remembered as an artist of the common masses. This portrait of an Iyengar lady, most probably with information gathered from his time in Madras, shows a woman of noble lineage, given her attire and jewellery. Draping his subject in the nine-yard sari favoured by the Iyengars, Pillai takes the detailing to the highest level. Be it the jewellery, the intricate work on the sari and the blouse, it reveals the high skill of the artist. The face of the subject is simple, yet alluring.


  • Title: Portrait of An Iyer Lady
  • Creator: Neelakanta Pillai
  • Date Created: 1937
  • Location Created: Madras, India
  • Subject Keywords: Raja Ravi Varma, Neelakanta Pillai
  • Original Source: Private Collection
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas
  • Art Genre: Painting
  • About the Artist: C Neelakanta Pillai (b.1885 - d.1961) a.k.a. C N Pillai occupied the post of the Durbar Artist. A graduate in Fine Arts from School of Arts, Madras and the only disciple of K.R. Ravi Varma, it did not take long for Neelakanta Pillai to gain the patronage of the royal family. Pillai’s mastery in painting and its technical intricacies was the result of the long training under his famed mentor. Pillai was associated with K R Ravi Varma’s studio for 15 years, starting as a disciple and later donning the role of an assistant.

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