Osian’s acquires Raja Ravi Varma painting for approx. Rs 6 crores


Mumbai: India’s archive and auction house Osian’s, unveiled a rare Raja Ravi Varma painting at their ongoing film festival in New Delhi.

The painting was recently acquired by Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art chairman Neville Tuli for almost Rs 60 million from the Bonhams auction. This makes it the most expensive Ravi Varma painting ever.

Dated 1881, the exquisite oil on canvas painting, speaks eloquently of the Raj and depicts the Maharaja of Travancore and his younger brother welcoming Richard Temple-Grenville, third Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Governor-General of Madras (1875-80), on his official visit to Trivandrum in 1880.

The dimensions of the artwork are 106 x 146 cm. As the most sought-after academic painter of colonial India who was an aristocrat himself, Ravi Varma was often invited to state occasions by British high officials and the Indian nobility, and recorded their activities on his canvases.

Describing this acquisition as significant, Tuli said, "It is very important to bring back to India part of its artistic cultural heritage". A large number of Ravi Varma’s oleographs have been acquired by Osian’s as well.

The history or provenance of this picture leads from Richard Temple-Grenville, third Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (1823-1889) to Baroness Kinloss, the Duke’s daughter (who owned part of the Stowe estate in 1894). It was then perhaps given to a local solicitor and town clerk by Baroness Kinloss; or to Buckinghamshire County Council directly where it stayed in Castle House, Buckingham, and the offices of Buckinghamshire County Council, from the 1920s until 1974.  From there to a private UK collection from 1974 when Castle House was bought by the owner from whom Osian’s finally purchased the Painting.

With this acquisition, Osian’s continues on its ambitious path towards building the most comprehensive and important collection for the Osianama in a bid to expand and inculcate in India’s masses a sound knowledge base about art. The painting will finally be housed in Osianama, which will open to the public in mid 2009 in Mumbai.