One of Ravi Varma’s most favoured religious themes was that of Yashodha and Krishna. There are several versions of Yashodha and Krishna made by the artist and portrayed from various angles, with variations of the faces of mother and child.
Yashoda Pointing Out To Balakrishna His Cows (1870) by Raja Ravi VarmaOriginal Source: Private Collection
The mother and child theme is a perennial one in many cultures but it is apparent in some of Ravi Varma’s painting that the generic paintings of Madonna and Child had made an impression on him.
Images of children generally have great visual appeal, an observation that was not lost on Ravi Varma, who constantly made variations of the child theme.
Varma had 5 children and many grandchildren whom he must have observed and sketched. From this comes the large body of child images, ranging from royal children to the cherubic baby Krishna.
Since Ravi Varma belonged to Travancore aristocracy he was familiar with fine gems and jewels and continued to see excellent examples when he started to travel and make portraits of India’s royalty.
It is this familiarity with gems and jewels that made it possible for Varma to paint them as exquisitely as he did.
Here baby Krishna is resplendent in Basra pearls, Golconda diamonds and emeralds, while Yashodha is seen wearing traditional pearl and ruby jimkis and a septum ring.
In most of Varma’s paintings the gods are adorned with jewellery as splendid as his human subjects.
Realism is a very important component of the genre of painting that Ravi Varma excelled in.
From the richness of the silk to the glow of pearls, the glint of gold and the lavishness of detail, Varma utilised every possible device to make his paintings as real as he could make them.
Exhibit and references: From Raja Ravi Varma: Painter of Colonial India by Rupika Chawla and Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation