Manthara and Kaikeyi

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Artist: Bamapada Banerjee
Year: Early 1900s
Medium: Oleograph
Size: 22.25 x 16.75 inches (Framed)
Signature: Bottom Right


This is an oleograph of Manthara and Kaikeyi by the Bengali artist Bamapada Banerjee from the early 1900s. Manthara (humpbacked) is a character in the Hindu epic Ramayana. She was a family servant of Kaikeyi, who had lived with her from the time of her birth. When Manthara hears that King Dasharatha is planning to make his eldest son, Rama, prince regent (rather than Bharata, his child by Kaikeyi), she flies into a rage and reports the news to Kaikeyi. Kaikeyi is initially pleased and hands Manthara a pearl necklace, as is pictured here.
Manthara reminds Kaikeyi of the two boons Dasharatha had given her when she had once saved his life in a celestial battle. Kaikeyi had kept these boons for later and Manthara tells her that this is the right time to ask for them. The first boon she advises her to ask for is that Bharata should be made king. The second is for Rama to be sent into exile in the forest for fourteen years. Dasharatha grants both boons, and from this the epic story unfolds.
The artist Banerjee (1851–1932) was initally trained at the Calcutta Art School. Later he took private lessons with Pramathalal Mitra and worked as an apprentice to the German painter Karl Becker. Bamapada Banerjee’s popularity rests on his paintings illustrating Hindu mythology. He was influenced by European paintings, and though a junior contemporary of Ravi Varma, the most influential artist of the time, Bamapada evolved an individual style. Most of his works were printed in Germany.
  • ABOUT Oleographs

    Oleographs, also called chromolithographs, are multi-colour art prints, stemming from the process of lithography. Pioneered in the 1830s, the process of producing oleographs came into wide commercial use in the 1860s. The technique relied on using several woodblocks or stones with colours for printing, while hand-colouring remained an important aspect as well. Depending on the number of colours present, an oleograph could take months to produce by very skilled workers. Poor preservation and cheaper printing alternatives have made oleographs hard to find. Today, they are mainly used as fine art.

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