Designing the Gods

It's an idyllic backdrop, with the valley and the greens. But a despondent Sita seated under a tree is lost in thought. She seems oblivious to her surroundings. Raja Ravi Varma paints her in the way words describe her in epics dressed in saffron, plain, with sparse jewels. Years later, the vintage zardozi on her saree might have lost its sheen but the print is precious, says Anubhav Nath, director of Ojas Art. "It's a rare print. Raja Ravi Varma prints of Lakshmi and Saraswati are relatively easier to find because many of them were produced due to high demand," says Nath. The gallerist who has been collecting Varma's prints for over a decade, has now curated an exhibition from his collection. Comprising over 70 frames, each of the oleographs is embellished with zardozi done in Burma and south India.

The walls are resplendent with Varma's depiction of episodes from mythology and the deities who once graced calenders. There is Lakshmi standing on a lotus flower, with the river flowing under her feet. Krishna is Sri Venu Gopal with a flute, mesmerising the gopis. Vishnu appears on the mythical bird Garuda, flanked by his two wives Rudra and Sukeerthi. Shiv is on the Kailash mountains with Parvati and Ganesha on his lap, and the bull Nandi completes the picture. "The works are of historical significance. He is one of the first Indian contemporary artists who was responsible for taking art to homes through his oleographs. Aesthetically too, Varma defined how Indian gods and goddesses were pictured," says Nath.

Procured from collections world over, Nath is particular about the prints he acquires. "The print strip at the bottom is a must, it has its own charm," he says. None of the prints have been under a restorer's brush. "One tends to lose the patina during restoration," he reasons. The collection is not complete yet though, Nath notes that there are several other rare Ravi Varma works he hopes to get hold of.

The exhibition at Ojas Art, 1A, Qutab Minar, Mehrauli Road, is on till February 28. Contact: 23413136

Varma in the Auction Circuit

In August 2012, an untitled lithograph sold at Pundole's auction for Rs 3,80,000.

At the Sotheby's New York September 2011 auction an Untitled (Himalayan Beauty) oil on canvas sold for US $2,66,500.

A 1904 oil on canvas "Full length portrait of a boy" came under the hammer at the Gorringes auction for 10,000 pounds in March 2011.

Varma's untitled portrait of a Parsee lady sold for US $1,04,500 at Sotheby's New York 2008 auction.

In October 2007, Bonhams sold a Raja Ravi Varma oil on canvas for 6,02,400.

Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writer's alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Indian Express Group or its staff. Comments are automatically posted live; however, reserves the right to take it down at any time. We also reserve the right not to publish comments that are abusive, obscene, inflammatory, derogatory or defamatory.