(p.256) Appendix I
(p.256) Appendix I
Biographies of Artists and Craftsmen Engaged with Sayajirao’s Collecting Practice
Augusto Felici (b. 1851)
There is little biographical information available on Felici. He was born in 1851 in Rome and completed his training in art by 1872. St. Anthony of Padua is one of Felici’s most renowned works in Italy. It is a colossal, extant figure that replaced a fifteenth-century sculpture on the facade of Santo in Padua (Ladis 2008: 146).
Charles Giron (1850–1914)
Charles Giron trained in Paris for several years. He exhibited his l’Education de Bacchus in the Salon of 1879. Later he spent his time in Switzerland. The Alpine theme influenced his landscapes. Paysans et Paysage was one such famous work exhibited at the Salon of 1885. A small-scale work, Cime de l’Est, was exhibited at the Swiss section of the Paris exhibition in 1900. His portraits were especially feted for creating a Swiss national type (Mobbs 1902: 81–4).
Fanindranath Bose (1888–1926)
Bose trained in Edinburgh and apprenticed with Sculptor Percy Portsmouth at the College of Art. He went to Paris on a scholarship and was heavily (p.257) influenced by Auguste Rodin and the Frenchman M.J.A. Mercie’s works. He later made Scotland his home and actively participated in exhibitions across Britain. His impressive debut and sustained presence at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1913 drew significant collectors and artists to Bose’s works. Sir William Goscombe John, who had also apprenticed with Rodin, acquired Bose’s 1916 entry, The Hunter.
Francis Derwent Wood (1871–1926)
Francis Derwent Wood was born in 1871 in Cumberland in England’s Lake District. He pursued his art training in Germany and upon his return to London, apprenticed with Édouard Lantéri and Sir Thomas Brock. He taught at the Glasgow School of Art from 1897–1905 and was professor of sculpture at the Royal College of Art from 1918–23. Wood became RA (royal academician) in 1920. His sculptural output included architectural as well as free-standing pieces.
Neelakandan Asari (d. 1907)
Neelakandan Asari was the son of master craftsman Kochu Kunju Asari, who was also known as ‘Anantha Padmanabhan Asari’. Kochu Kunju practised and promoted ivory carving in Travancore. The significance of this family of ivory master craftsmen lies in the fact that they were the first guild of ivory workers in Travancore. Before them the royal family depended entirely on the ivory workers of Mysore. This guild was based in Pettah in Travancore.
Neelakandan assisted his father Kochu Kunju in the production of the renowned golden chariot for Maharaja Swathi Thirunal (r. 1829–47). This golden chariot became iconic and craftsmen reproduced its motif in subsequent works. Neelakandan also assisted in the creation of a famous ivory throne commissioned during the reign of Uthram Thirunal Marthanda Varma (r. 1847–60) and loaned to the Great Exhibition of 1851. Neelakandan was a friend of Raja Ravi Varma and a close acquaintance of Dewan T. Madhavarao. His father headed the Department of Ivory Carving at the Industrial School of Arts, Travancore, which is now the Fine Arts College, Trivandrum.1 The idea to open this art (p.258) school was initiated by Dewan T. Madhavarao. Since Kochu Kunju passed away in the 1870s, it is conjectured that Neelakandan may have taken over the department in the same decade. It may have been soon after his Baroda sojourn, which is definitely centred around 1878. It is interesting to learn that despite his placement in the art school, his affiliations with the traditional guild continued in the capacity of its head. Neelakandan passed away in 1907. A newspaper obituary dated 21 March 19072 lauds Neelakandan’s exquisite ivory carvings that were famous across the country and known to have been displayed at exhibitions and fetched several awards. The most prestigious displays by Neelakandan were at the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition and the 1903 Delhi Durbar Exhibition.
Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1906)
Ravi Varma was born in Kilimanoor in the present-day Kerala. His family was associated with the ruling house of Travancore through matrimonial ties. Varma’s aptitude for art was spotted by his uncle who introduced him to King Ayilyam Thirunal in 1862. Varma secured a place in the Travancore Palace informally and embarked on his career as a salon painter.
Samuel Fyzee Rahamin (b. 1880)
Samuel Rahamin was born in Poona. He is believed to have been born as F.R. Samuel, belonging to the Bene Israel community of Jews in India, and converted to Islam after marriage. According to Fatesingh Gaekwad (1989: 30), Rahamin came to Baroda and married one of his subjects, the sister of the begum of Janjira, and hence changed his name to Rahamin/Rehman. According to Gulammohammed Sheikh’s (1997: 266) account, Rahamin married the musician Atiya Begum and moved to Karachi in 1947. After a brief sojourn at the Bombay School of Art, he left for London to train under Solomon J. Solomon and John Singer Sargent at the Royal Academy (Mitter 1994: 99). He practised portraiture in the academic style and also engaged with landscape and mural painting. After his return to India in 1908, he switched to the genre of miniature painting, which was popularly advocated by the Revivalist Bengal School. He exhibited with the Bombay Art Society and had a (p.259) solo show at the Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, in 1914. He was invited to paint the frescoes for the Imperial Secretariat, New Delhi, in 1926–7 and 1928–9. Rahamin also played a crucial role in the reorganization of the oriental sections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York. In addition to the visual arts, Rahamin had a keen interest in music and drama.
Valentine Cameron Prinsep (1838–1904)
Valentine Prinsep belonged to the Pre-Raphaelite School. Popularly known as Val Prinsep, he studied with G.F. Watts and Charles Gleyre in Paris. Prinsep returned to England and exhibited over a hundred pictures at the Royal Academy from 1862 to 1904. He was elected ARA (associate member of the Royal Academy) in 1879 and RA in 1894.
(1.) I have accumulated information on Neelakandan Asari through conversations with a descendant, Sharat Sunder Rajeev, from the second line of the family. Sharat Sunder’s source of information is Neelakandan Asari’s great grandson and Kunjan Asari’s son, Hari, an artist and art teacher currently based in Trivandrum. Sharat Sunder is also in the possession of a logbook maintained from 1923 by Neelakandan’s sons.
(2.) ‘Neelakandan Asari, an employee of Trivandrum Karakaushalasala (Industrial School of Arts) and a skilled craftsman, passed away on 4th of Meenam (Malayalam month). His skill was best displayed on the artefacts sent for various exhibitions’ (Malayala Manorama, 21 March 1907, translated by Sharat Sunder Rajeev).