Ravi Varma’s Parsi Lady lifts her veil after a century of wear and tear

Ravi Varma's century-old creation Parsi Lady has been completed and restored.

Born in 1848 in Kilimanoor Palace, Raja Ravi Varma was a painter well ahead of his times. A master of classical realistic portrayals, many of his works still stand the test of time. But time ran out on Varma when it came to completing his last work. The work came back into reckoning a couple of weeks ago when Kerala Governor Arif Muhammed Khan unveiled 'Parsi Lady’, the last unfinished work of Ravi Varma (1848-1906) after inaugurating the 175th birth anniversary celebrations of the veteran artist at the Kilimanoor Palace, 32 km from Thiruvananthapuran.

Ravi Varma, who popularised realistic painting in India, redefined the idioms of Indian tradition, using European techniques. He also took art to the common man, establishing printing presses to make reproductions of his works in various parts of India. Completing his last work was therefore a both ambitious and significant task.

The restoration of Parsi Lady — an oil painting 120 cm in height and 86 cm wide — attains greater significance as the work was being restored more than a century later. Even though S Madhan has restored many Varma’s paintings, this was the first time he restored an incomplete work of the artist. It was challenging, as the canvas had fold marks as it was lying inside the palace for more than a century. Art historians believe that Parsi Lady remained incomplete when Ravi Varma breathed his last at his studio inside the Kilimanoor Palace in 1906. “The canvas was idle for a long time. It developed tiny cracks and holes due to it. It took some time for us to complete it,” said Madhan, who has restored 21 paintings of Ravi Varma.

Kerala Governor Arif Muhammed Khan unveiling Parsi Lady.
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