If you have ever been to Mysore, you must have been to the Jaganmohan Palace Art Gallery. It is one of the best art galleries in Southern India. The Jaychama Rajendra art gallery at this palace has a painting titled ‘Lady with the lamp’, which is easily mistaken as a work of Raja Ravi Varma.
If you look at the painting, it has almost everything you might find in a beautiful Ravi Varma painting. The realistic approach, the sari clad south Indian woman, the level of detail etc. It has every element of the traditional touch that you are likely to come across in a Ravi Varma painting.
While the association of Ravi Varma to this painting seems legit, the fact remains, there is little chance Ravi Varma even saw this painting!
In addition, this painting is not even titled ‘Lady with the lamp’! The real artist behind this glowing piece of work is S.L.Haldankar and the painting is titled ‘Glow of Hope’. To make things even more interesting, the woman in the painting is S.L.Haldankar’s third daughter, Gita Haldankar! (Gita Uplekar is her official name after marriage to Krishnakant Uplekar)
There’s even a backstory to this painting.
As per Gita Haldankar, the idea for this amazing painting came on a festive Diwali night.
Around the age of 14, on a Diwali night, Gita was lighting diyas to decorate their home. Her father, Haldankar saw this and asked her to pose for a painting. She was asked to wear a saree and stand still with a diya in her hand. She was asked to cover the flame with her hand so that winds won’t blow it out. Haldankar wanted to portray her in this feeble yellow light in a way that it would appear like her face is the only glowing thing illuminated in the darkness of night. According to her, the painting took almost 3 hrs to complete.
So, the question remains. From where did Raja Ravi Varma come to the picture all of a sudden?
There could be many reasons for why this painting is attributed to Ravi Varma. Fist of all, as mentioned earlier, the realistic style and all the other features of the painting, which closely resembles that of Ravi Varma, could be a reason. Secondly, the woman in the painting was thought to be someone from Kerala and the lamp depicted in the picture is something similar to the ones found in Kerala. When you talk about Kerala and painting, there is only one name that connects the two; Ravi Varma.
Recommended Read: Did you know these interesting facts about Ravi Varma paintings?
Another fact is that, this painting is on the same floor, sharing space with many other Ravi Varma paintings that are kept on display at The Jaychama Rajendra art gallery. Consequently, there is a great chance that majority of art lovers got the idea that ‘Glow of Hope’ is also a Ravi Varma art. To add to all this wrong credit and misconceptions, the media has also played its part in making this painting a ‘Ravi Varma masterpiece’.
For example, an article that appeared in ‘The Hindu’, ‘Splash of vibrant hues’ , mentions about this painting and attributes it to the great Ravi Varma.
“So, what you get to see is an interpretation of Raja Ravi Verma’s paintings with a touch of innovation. Like in the case of the lady with a lamp portrait, she sports the costume of a Travancore woman.”
In truth, neither there is a ‘Lady with a lamp’, nor is she a ‘Travancore woman’!
Now It’s Your Turn…
Have you heard the story of this painting before? Did anyone you know mentioned this painting as Ravi Varma’s? Share your response via comments..
Check out a beautiful video about the best paintings of Raja Ravi Varma.