Jun 30 2012
Taken through glass at an exhibit and not a good copy, here is the earliest photograph I’ve found of one of my favourites, Maharani Vani Vilasa of Mysore: mother of the five adorable children I blogged about for the past two weeks, and whose Maharaja husband died young, making her Regent to their son. As a pretty girl in the late 1870s (married at age 12), she wears Mysore’s characteristic front-trained saree in a light woven check with silk and/or zari borders and pallu, the end around her upper right arm like a sleeve. She retained her sweet expression over the following 50+ years.
This carefully selected and posed woman graced a postcard advertising Indian tea. Not exactly ”tribal” in the sense of a remote indigenous culture, but different from town or city styles, her saree is clearly a holdover from simpler days. Contrasting borders, well draped, add an aesthetic design element worthy of a Paris fashion house of any era. The body of the saree appears slightly variegated, suggesting even in black-and-white the soft hues of natural dyes and hand-woven cloth of homespun thread.