Jul 3 2013
May 19 2013
May is flying by, and where I live it already feels like summer. Yesterday it was 101 degrees, and I wished to be somewhere cool and beautiful, with water and lovely scenery. This painting is what my fantasy place could have been. Note the women in a variety of sarees, with minimal cholis. The artist is American Edwin Lord Weeks, the setting the Ghats of Mathura (in UP, India), 1883.
Nov 18 2012
This Tanjore-style painting shows a Tamil region woman in a light, sheer saree without a choli. Though dated to the end of the 18th century, the fabric is similar to a number of traditional handweaves made today that create a check pattern with thicker threads, or tighter-packed or differently coloured fibres. The jewellery is especially lovely but heavy, as shown by the lady’s stretched ear lobe. Something about the image appeals to me tremendously: maybe the neatness with which the saree is draped, the colours and symmetry of the outfit and accessories, the composure of the model or the artist’s talent. Like her look?
Nov 11 2012
Here is a pretty image from a mid-20th century postcard – the artist listed as Pratap Sen, though I couldn’t find anything about him. Love the extreme simplicity of the light blue and yellow sarees, minimal jewellery, no blouses, but beautiful hair and an engaging setting. If I had a fantasy life in India I’d have henna on my feet and go barefoot every day.
Nov 4 2012
Updated Information: The source of the image above, the archive selling copies of it on their website, apparently misidentified the exquisite Winterhalter portrait. It is not the Maharani Bamba Duleep Singh whose history I initially posted, but the Coorg Princess Gowramma, also befreinded by Queen Victoria, also a Christian, and who also died tragically young! The Queen even tried to “fix her up” with Dulep Singh before he met and married Bamba Muller! So do stop to admire this Indian girl’s complete costume, and the way her saree is worn. I love the dozens of itty pleats falling from her waist, and the broad pallu wrapping around her, fastened by the gold belt. Oh, and lots of heavy jewellery too.
The Cinderella story belongs to Bamba, the girl in this sepia photograph – an illegitimate, Arabic-speaking, half-German, half-Egyptian (her mother of Abyssinian background and possibly a slave), raised by American missionaries in Egypt, married to Duleep Singh, a young and very handsome deposed Punjabi Maharaja Sikh-turned-Christian whose holdings, including the fabulous Koh-i-Noor diamond, were all confiscated by the British government. The Singhs were the darlings of Queen Victoria and her family for some time.
But the fairy-tale life of Maharani Bamba Muller Duleep Singh did not end happily ever after. Like others I’ve profiled here, wearing beautiful sarees when they were young, Bamba died before she was 40, the mother of six children who all died childless, and leaving a husband who had taken a mistress elsewhere. Life is lumpy, as a friend of mine says.