Raja Ravi Varma

Raja Ravi Varma, said to be one of the greatest Indian painters (he even has an award named after him) did several oils depicting famous moments from the Shakuntala and Damayanti myths, among others, which for many Indians have become inextricably linked to the literary scenes they represent.  Although the women are very Indian, and South Indian at that, the paintings themselves are more reminiscent of Western portraiture than of Indian traditional or contemporary art.  In this respect, his work reminds me of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne or Danae and the Shower of Gold.  This style, though, isn’t as suited to the Indian mythological context as to the classical, especially given that Varma was painting in the last few decades of the 19th century not Renaissance Europe.

Nevertheless, his paintings were and still are extremely popular, and for many this is what Shakuntala, Damayanti et al look like.  If anyone knows of or has themselves created depictions of these same scenes (or others) do post them for comparison here.


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