Exemplary skill has been applied in rendering the fabric of the woman’s clothes, her jewelry, her hair, and the fruit held delicately between her fingers. The charming naturalism employed here is entirely characteristic of Raja Ravi Varma’s style. This work is by a very talented yet unknown artist emulating one of the masters of Indian academic realism and recreating one of his finest paintings.
Ravi Varma is credited with elevating the status of the women he painted into national symbols of feminine beauty. Tapati Guha-Thakurta writes, ‘He had in his paintings to make the passage from Western to Indian, from the “real” to the “iconic”. Thus individual models and real ladies acquired in his paintings layers of other significance (aesthetic, social, religious and mythic), which transformed them into feminine and national emblems.’ (T. Guha-Thakurta, ‘Raja Ravi Varma and the Project of a New National Art,’ Raja Ravi Varma: New Perspectives, National Museum, New Delhi, 1993, p. 45) Remaining true to Ravi Varma’s philosophy, here, this anonymous artist masterfully captures the woman’s mysterious and coy expression.
Throughout history, the theme of the coquette has appeared in a variety of settings, where the sitter represents an object of desire. The woman’s almond-shaped eyes gaze out at the viewer, welcoming the prospect of an interaction, as the symbolic forbidden fruit is proffered to anyone who is willing. The handling of paint appears to be meticulous and refined, in the manner of Dutch old master paintings. It is comparable in quality to many of Ravi Varma’s iconic works and is testament to the genius of its painter who has so beautifully brought a richness of character to both the composition and its theme.
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