Unseen Original Portraits by Raja Ravi Varma

Portraits of important associates of the artist have come to light through the course of the Foundation's research. This story showcases some of these never before seen works.

In the course of its research, Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation has come across several portraits painted by Raja Ravi Varma and his brother C. Rajaraja Varma, that have never been seen before or published in books.

Raja Ravi Varma and C. Raja Raja Varma (1882-01) by C. Rajaraja VarmaRaja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation

C. Rajaraja Varma

These men and women played pivotal roles in the lives of the Varma brothers and images of these paintings will be included in the redesigned version of 'Raja Ravi Varma: Portrait of an Artist, The Diary of C. Rajaraja Varma', a project being executed by the Foundation.

A Prince On A Tricycle (1875-01) by Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: Private Collection

Prince Asvathi Tirunal Martanda Varma

This charming portrait was done around 1887 by Ravi Varma. The whole purpose of the portrait, it would seem, was not so much to capture the sixteen-year-old’s likeness or flatter his features, as to parade his assumed personality.

“In 1887 a young man of ample proportions climbed on to a tricycle to pose for a famous painter. On his face was a look of doleful seriousness, and in the background were rolling hills and wiry trees. He wore English trousers and shiny shoes, with a dreary dark coat and pocket watch. Indeed, beside ear studs and an embroidered cap, there was no concession at all to the Western stereotype of Eastern opulence here.”
Manu S. Pillai 'False Allies: India's Maharajas in the Age of Ravi Varma'

A Prince On A Tricycle (1875-01) by Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: Private Collection

A Prince on a Tricycle

However ‘bold’ a statement the artist proposed to make with this painting of Prince Asvathi Tirunal Martanda Varma aka B.A. Prince, his painting (which was displayed at the Simla Art Show) was savagely criticised in ‘The Pioneer’ dated 6th October 1887.

Throughout the diary entries made by Raja Varma, from 1st January 1895 onwards, Prince Asvathi Tirunal Martanda Varma is respectfully referred to as His Highness. These entries have been made during the brothers' tour of North India with the Prince and his entourage and several short, but clear records clearly indicate their fondness and reverence of the man.

Dr Bhalachandra Krishna (1892-01) by Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: Private Collection

Dr. Sir Bhalachandra Krishna Bhatwadekar

A medical practitioner from Bombay, Dr. Bhalachandra was a close associate of Ravi Varma and his brother and is documented extensively in the 'Diary of C. Rajaraja Varma'. This portrait has not been documented or seen before.

Born in 1852, Dr. Sir Bhalchandra played a pivotal role in the life of Ravi Varma during the years he spent working in Bombay. There are several entires on the brothers' association with the illustrious doctor who lived in Girgaum. 

Sunday 5th June 1898
"After coffee in the morning I walked to Dr Balachandra’s bungalow, a mile off and consulted him on the subject of our business—at 11.30 p.m. Gerhardt and myself left Karli for Bombay. Dr B.[Balachandra] also travelled by the same train."

Dr Bhalachandra Krishna (1892-01) by Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: Private Collection

Portrait of Dr. Sir Bhalchandra Krishna Bhatwadekar

Friday 8th July 1898
"Early in the morning called on Dr B. [Balachandra]. He promised definitely either to find the money for me [or] stand security. Mind greatly relieved." From the 'Diary of C. Rajaraja Varma'

This portrait of is signed 'Ravi Varma' and dated 1892. This clearly indicates that the brothers maintained a long friendship with the illustrious doctor who not only loaned them money, advised them on financial matters, and also treated both of them on several occasions. He was also one of the few people present at Ravi Varma's side during his final moments.

Rani Dhatri of Kollengode (1903-01) by Raja Ravi Varma & C. Rajajraja VarmaOriginal Source: Private Collection

Rani Dhatri Thampatty

This is a portrait of the mother of the Raja of Kollengode. The Varma brothers were regular visitors at the palace of Raja Vasudevan of Kollengode. Krishnan Tampan, the Raja's younger brother was very keen to learn the art of painting.

The brothers and Krishnan Tampan often travelled together. There are several instances and entries in the diary where the Raja and his brother's generosity are mentioned. The artist brothers regularly dined at Kollengode and were commissioned to do a portrait of the Kollengode Raja's mother.

Rani Dhatri of Kollengode (1903-01) by Raja Ravi Varma & C. Rajajraja VarmaOriginal Source: Private Collection

The Face of a Matriarch

This portrait remains in the family's collection to date and has never before been documented. 

Excerpt from Diary
Saturday, 10th January 1903
We have given finishing touches to the portrait today. The work is not as satisfactory as we should have wished.

In the image below Raja Ravi Varma (right) and C. Rajaraja Varma (standing) are seen with the Kollengode Raja Vasudevan, who commissioned the Varma brothers to paint his mother's portrait. 

Raja Ravi Varma and C. Raja Raja Varma, C. Rajaraja Varma, 1882-01, From the collection of: Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation
,
Rani Dhatri of Kollengode, Raja Ravi Varma & C. Rajajraja Varma, 1903-01, Original Source: Private Collection
Show lessRead more

This is one of the rare paintings which bears both the brothers' signatures and is dated 1-1-1903.

Diwan of Bhavnagar (1882-01) by Attributed to Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: Royal Bhavnagar Collection

The Old Diwan of Bhavnagar

During the course of his travels to Baroda, Ravi Varma also visited Bhavnagar, where he stayed for two months and painted several portraits of the royal family. This is a portrait of the old Diwan of Bhavnagar.

A letter written in by Ravi Varma 1895 to S. Shangarasoobrayar Avaragal, Diwan of Travancore, for consideration of a government scheme for establishment of an Art Gallery in Trivandrum cites the example that even "the little state Bhavnagar, in Kathiawar' has a collection of paintings which Travancore does not possess". 

Diwan of Bhavnagar (1882-01) by Attributed to Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: Royal Bhavnagar Collection

A Regal Portrait

This portrait of the decorated diwan of Bhavnagar hangs in the private palace of the royal family. The distinguished gentleman is clad in traditional dress and wears heavy ornamentation. The painting has never been documented in books or publications.

All of the paintings appearing in this story belong to Private Collections and have never before been documented or featured in books and publications.

Credits: Story

Curated by: Archana Shenoy & Ravi Chakravarthy
Image Courtesy: Bhatwadekar Family, Royal Bhavnagar Collection, Kollengode Royal Family, other Private Collectors

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Raja Ravi Varma
The royal who became the most iconic Indian artist of all time
View theme
Google apps