Authentication & Restoration

Raja Ravi Varma’s artwork is ‘Non-Exportable’ as he has been deemed a ‘National Treasure’ by the Government of India. Owning a work by this artist is not just a matter of pride, it is like owing a slice of history that must be preserved correctly and documented accordingly.

According to art historian and restoration specialist Rupika Chawla, Raja Ravi Varma is estimated to have painted more than 2000 works during his lifetime. Many of these works are part of royal collections and are now housed in Palaces and Museums in Vadodara, Mysore, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Aundh, Chennai, New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

Other works are owned by Private Collectors, some known, while several are not yet known of. If you think you own or come across a work by Raja Ravi Varma, reach out to us at the Foundation. Our aim is to document and preserve as many works done by the artist, as possible.

Below is an extensive list of the works that have been brought to the Foundation for some sort of process or documentation. We are happy to help you with the following services:

  • Document
  • Authenticate
  • Valuate
  • Register

Please note that the Foundation undertakes all of these services pro bono, with the sole intention of building an authentic archive of his work and documenting as many of the artist’s works as possible.

For assistance related to any of these services please reach out to Ravi Chakravarthy on +91 9845213467 or write in to office@therrvhfoundation.com


DISCLAIMERS:
  • The paintings have been physically and visually inspected and x-rayed, and examined under UV light, but have not been subjected to any kind of chemical testing.
  • The authentications are free and all the expenses have been borne by the Foundation. Additionally, the authentication has been done for research and archival purposes and is not intended for any commercial activity.

The authentication committee comprises Rupika Chawla, Dr Choodamani Nandagopal, Rukmini Varma and Gitanjali Maini.


Authentic Works

Authenticated / Restored / Registered works by
the hand of Raja Ravi Varma

Yashoda Pointing out to Balakrishna his Cows

Yashoda Pointing out to Balakrishna His Cows

Raja Ravi Varma painted many Puranic themes on his canvas. One of the most popular, of which he made several different versions, is that of 'Yashoda and Krishna’. The mother-and-child theme is a perineal one in many cultures, but it is apparent in some of Ravi Varma’s paintings that the generic paintings of Madonna & Child had made an impression on him. His paintings of 'Yashoda and Krishna’ were used to depict the moment of togetherness between Krishna and his mother and he created the various versions of this subject portraying the duo from different angels. There are variations to the faces of mother and child, difference in colour of the garment worn by Yashoda, variation in the kind of jewellery worn by them, along with small differences seen in the imagery painted in the background.

This painting, which is back-signed, bears accurate description and style of art works of Raja Ravi Varma in consideration of subject, colour pallet, soft handling of colours and treatment of humanistic emotions and portrayal of the same, and is hereby certified as a ‘Reverse Signed Original’.

Authentication: Rupika Chawla & Gitanjali Maini

Restoration: Rupika Chawla

Reclining Nair Lady

Reclining Nair Lady

Painted in 1902, this signed work by Raja Ravi Varma is reminiscent of Eduardo Manet’s ‘Olympia’. Yet the stylistic and cultural adaption of the work could have been achieved by none other than this master artist. Ravi Varma had a large collection of foreign art books purchased at various shops in Bombay and Madras and he used to spend considerable time studying them. He was well aware of Impressionism, a movement that revolted against academic conventions in France during the 1860s and of Manet, one of the most important practitioners of this movement. While Reclining Nair Lady is the result of a direct reference to Manet’s work, it is apparent that he was equally cognizant with the imagery of several European painters in India who made canvases of foreign ‘nabobs’, their native entourage and their exotic ‘bibis’.

This painting, which is signed, bears accurate description and style of art works of Raja Ravi Varma in consideration of subject, colour pallet, soft handling of colours and treatment of humanistic emotions and portrayal of the same, and is hereby certified as a ‘Signed Original’.

Authentication: Rupika Chawla & Gitanjali Maini

Restoration: Rupika Chawla

The Coquette

The Coquette

One of the most stunning works created by Ravi Varma, this painting of a lady holding a gooseberry or lemon in her hand was possibly the artist’s way of indicating her pregnant state. Her features, ethereally beautiful like many other women painted by Varma, set a high standard of beauty. The artist has decked her out in an array of jewels and even painstakingly detailed her blouse, clearly showing the fabric to be green velvet.

This painting, which is signed, bears accurate description and style of art works of Raja Ravi Varma in consideration of subject, colour palatte, soft handling of colours and treatment of humanistic emotions and portrayal of the same, and is hereby certified as a ‘Signed Original’.

Authentication: Rupika Chawla & Gitanjali Maini

Restoration: Rupika Chawla

Marthanda Bhairava Tondiaman

Marthanda Bhairava Tondiaman

Marthanda Bhairava Tondaiman of Pudukkottai was the Crown Prince, destined to be the Maharaja.

Ravi Varma had earlier made a figurine, a Chinese figurine on the right side of the canvas and painted it. It’s possible after finishing he realised that it was almost like a straight line between the figurine and the tip of the feather on Marthanda Tondiaman’s crown. So Ravi Varma extended the curtain and covered the figurine and then painted the Evangelina statue below so that the asymmetry sets a rhythm.

Over a century later, and when oil paint naturally dries, it tends to become transparent. So through the transparency this figurine, this Chinese figurine was revealed and it was noticeable in the right kind of light. During the process of x-ray, it was crystal clear what was underneath and what was on top.

Authentication: Rupika Chawla

Restoration: Rupika Chawla

Ugra Narasimhan

Ugra Narasimhan

This painting titled Narasimha is one of the rarely seen works by Ravi Varma. The painting is borrowed from the mythological tales that Ravi Varma grew up listening to and depicts the Narasimha avatar from the Dasavatar.

This oil on canvas was primarily made by the artist as an exemplar for oleograph production and was completed in the year 1899.

Authentication: Rupika Chawla

Restoration: Rupika Chawla

Fatal Garland

King Aja’s Lament or Fatal Garland

This painting also goes by the another name - The Fatal Garland. Done in 1903, this work done by the master artist draws from mythology and tellingly, Ravi Varma has depicted a tragic scene in a stunning manner.

Aja is on the terrace with his wife and they are having a nice time when Indra passes overhead wearing his garland.

Now, Indra’s garland had a ‘special’ but tragic quality to it that if it fell on anyone that person immediately died. Unfortunately, it fell on Aja’s wife Indumati and she died at the moment of their greatest pleasure.

When the painting was being cleaned, a part of the left side where the varnish was been removed, Aja’s eyes are red and full of unshed tears. So it’s a terrible and tragic moment for Aja that is revealed. If not for this process of restoration, and owing to the varnish, such a tragic moment would have remained invisible.

Authentication: Rupika Chawla

Restoration: Rupika Chawla

Sairandri

Rai Pannalal Mehta

This painting has been created in 1902 by Raja Ravi Varma. The family sources based on oral tradition have clearly ascribed the work to Raja Ravi Varma. The work and the subject’s association with the artist has also been extensively documented in “Raja Ravi Varma: Portrait of An Artist, The Diary of C. Raja Raja Varma” by Erwin Neumayer and Christine Schelberger and “Raja Ravi Varma: Painter of Colonial India” by Rupika Chawla. There are also several other historical records that clearly establish the dealings Rai Pannalal Mehta maintained with Raja Ravi Varma and his brother C. Raja Raja Varma.

The completed portrait was delivered to Rai Pannalal Mehta and has remained with the Mehta family ever since.

This painting, which is signed, bears accurate description and style of art works of Raja Ravi Varma in consideration of subject, colour pallet, soft handling of colours and treatment of humanistic emotions and portrayal of the same, and is hereby certified as a ‘Signed Original’.

Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation has examined this work and had it registered with the ASI for the present owner.

Authentication: Rupika Chawla

Registration: T S Prasad

Ikkavu Thampuran

Rani Ikkavu Tampuran

This painting depicts the simplicity of the Cochin royals, in comparison with their peers in Travancore. Even the garb the Rani wears is peculiarly Cochin in style. Traditionally women in Kerala did not cover their torsos, but exposure to the British and Victorian ideals meant that slowly the idea of covering up came into vogue. While the Travancore princesses invented the methukettu, tying a mundu around the torso, in Cochin - as we see with Rani Ikkavu here - a cloth was loosely held against the breasts, and tucked under the arms. This, for many years, was the official dress of princesses of the Cochin royal family, as blouses were taboo.

According to Ravi Achan, the son of a Cochin prince, the royal women even played tennis with a cloth tucked under their arms like this.

This painting is unique in representing a Rani of Cochin in her traditional attire, also because portraits of Cochin's female royals are extremely rare. This painting, which is unsigned, yet bears accurate description and style of art works of Raja Ravi Varma in consideration of subject, colour pallet, soft handling of colours and treatment of humanistic emotions and portrayal of the same, and is hereby certified as a ‘Unsigned Original’.

Authentication: Rupika Chawla & Gitanjali Maini

Restoration: Rupika Chawla

B A Prince

Raja of Dewas

Narayan Rao Puar became the raja of the tiny little state of Dewas (Junior) a few years after his father died in 1864. Born in 1860, he grew up to be a natty young man if this photograph taken by Raja Deen Dayal, circa 1884, is any indication. Narayan Rao was in his twenties at the time and in the prime of his youth. During Ravi Varma's relentless criss-crossing of central India, it is likely that he would have met Narayan Rao in Indore, some 30 miles from Dewas, or perhaps, even in Dewas in the company of Deen Dayal.

Deen Dayal and Ravi Varma were friends and the possibility that this portrait was made during or just after the photography session is strong. Certainly the portrait was made between 1884 and 1890. A photograph that was taken later in 1890 shows a decadent, untidy looking Raja without the dash and swagger that he showed in the painting and in the earlier photograph taken by Raja Deen Dayal in 1884.

After visually and physically inspecting the work it has been concluded that it is a signed original done by the hand of Raja Ravi Varma.

This painting, which is unsigned, yet bears accurate description and style of art works of Raja Ravi Varma in consideration of subject, colour pallet, soft handling of colours and treatment of humanistic emotions and portrayal of the same, and is hereby certified as a ‘Unsigned Original’.

Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation has examined this work and had it registered with the ASI for the present owner.

Authentication: Rupika Chawla

Registration: T S Prasad

Radha Krishna

Radha Krishna

Raja Ravi Varma spent several months in Udaipur in 1901 at the invitation of the Maharana. While he was there he spent a lot of his time examining miniature paintings and studying their intricacies and details.

It is a documented fact that Ravi Varma was asked to reproduce paintings of the Maharana’s ancestors from similar paintings of them done in the miniature style. He created large size works of Maharana Pratap Singh, Maharana Jai Singh and Maharana Amar Singh. While Ravi Varma did not care much for the miniature works, he went on to carefully examine works done by other artists who followed that style. Thus many works painted by the artist during that period have been influenced by what he saw and studied of miniature paintings.

This painting of Radha Krishna was made during the artist’s time in Udaipur (it is dated 1901) and hence has reflects many influences of miniature paintings. Radha’s garments, the jewellery on the three figures, the foliage, are all reflective of miniature painting styles.

This painting, which is signed, bears accurate description and style of art works of Raja Ravi Varma in consideration of subject, colour palatte, soft handling of colours and treatment of humanistic emotions and portrayal of the same, and is hereby certified as a ‘Signed Original’.

The Foundation’s assistance was sought to have this artwork registered during distribution of assets of this family.

Authentication: Rupika Chawla

Registration: T S Prasad

Authenticated / Restored / Registered works by
Raja Ravi Varma's Contemporaries

Baby Princess

Baby & Princess

Initially presumed to be the work of Raja Ravi Varma given the accurate description and style of art works of the master artist in consideration of colour palettes, soft handling of colours and treatment of humanistic emotions and portrayal of the same, it was subjected to a further and thorough examination.

It was then determined that this painting in its entirety was done by the hand of C. Raja Raja Varma (Raja Ravi Varma’s brother) only.

Baby Princess

Bandi Balaiah Naidu

Diwan Bandi Balaiah Naidu was a huge supporter of Raja Ravi Varma and his brother C Raja Raja Varma. The artist brothers stayed with the Diwan on several occasions at his palatial home in Pon-namalay in Madras (as mentioned on Page 114 in ‘The Diary of C. Raja Raja Verma’ by Erwin Neumayer and Christine Schelberger).

This portrait of Bandi Balaiah Naidu was possibly done by C Raja Raja Varma as a token of gratitude and a mark of his friendship with the Diwan.

It is hence the opinion of Raja Ravi Varma Heritage Foundation that this work is a ‘Signed Original’ done by the hand of C. Raja Raja Varma.

Diwan Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row

Diwan Sir Thanjavur Madhava Row

The Foundation had provided an opinion regarding this painting based on x-ray visual and physical examination only, and also based on oral traditions, family lineage & inheritance of the present owners. However, on cleaning and removing of the hard varnish a partial inscription of a name was found which had been initially hidden under a layer of varnish and was not visible at first by UV, X-Ray or Visual Examination. On this discovery, the painting was immediately sent to Rupika Chawla in New Delhi for further examination.

After deep cleaning and further scrutiny on second and third levels we find that there are four areas in this painting that have caused us to relook at our opinion that it could be attributed to Raja Ravi Varma.

The Foundation believes that this painting ‘does not merit being declared as one that has been done by the hand of Raja Ravi Varma’.