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Indian Summer : Handpicked Selections from our travels across India
Indian Summer : Handpicked Selections from our travels across India
Raja Ravi Varma's Prized Decorated Oleographs - Khojcrafts

Raja Ravi Varma's Prized Decorated Oleographs

Raja Ravi Varma remains one of the most famed of all Indian artists even today. The popular images of mythological characters, such as Saraswati, Lakshmi ,  that most of us have grown up with, were created by Raja Ravi Verma (1848-1906). What he also did was take art beyond the boundaries of palaces in the early 19th century to the drawing rooms and puja rooms of homes through his oleographs. His influence is so pervasive that even today Hindu mythology and art continues to use his stylistic representation. 

It was in the 19th century that artist Raja Ravi Varma, to make art accessible to everyone — even the middle class, started making oleographs; a print made with oil paint that makes the painting look like an oil painting.

So, what are Oleographs ? 

Oleography or Chromolithography is a unique technique used for making colour prints. This particular technique evolved from Lithography – which is basically a method of printing using a stone.

The method of Oleography uses multiple stones - a separate stone for each colour and included printing one colour over another. It was widely used for commercial purposes and was the most popular method for colour printing till the end of the 19th century. Oleo in Latin means Oil. This technique used oil that gave the prints better quality. It is a chemical process based on rejection of oil by water. Depending on the number of colours present in the picture, skilled workers took months to complete a single Oleograph. 

Thus, the oleograph is a print made with oil paint, and is made to look like an oil painting. Verma popularized this technique through his printing press in Mumbai (then Bombay), which he set up in 1892 to produce high-quality prints of his paintings. It also made his art more accessible and created a connect with the common man.


What are decorative Ravi Varma's and why are they rare ? 

In the early 20th century, some oleographs made their way  furthur east,  where they were further embellished with embroidery and zardosi. The pieces with the zari work are the real collectables. The women of that period often used these works as a reference to find the color combinations in vogue. Each zari piece is unique as they cannot be exactly the same.

The pieces are self-explanatory. The use of fabric is very unique — it resonates with the aesthetic of those times and reflects on the fashion trends of that era.


Khoj and the Ravi Varmas 

At Khoj, we have got this unique opportunity for connoisseurs and collectors to see and own  a rare collection of these zari work oleographs. Many of the pieces are beautifully preserved, complete with the vintage frames. The paintings are jewel coloured and carry the patina  of  well aged art.  

The Raja Ravi Varma is part of our  Khazana Collection, where we showcase and bring together rare collectors pieces.  On display and sale is  a series of 8 oleographs, with Zari ~ 2 of them are from the famous "Woman in a Sari" series and the others depict royalty. Equally intriguing and stunning, these are rare finds and well priced. 

Do enjoy browsing  the collection  here and share the same with friends and family.


Blog Content Acknowlegement :  Artisera, 



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