Thanks for the overwhelming support for the first part of the post. Before we begin the second part, must thank Mr. K.Srinivas of The Chroma Academy, for enlightening us about the first person to have discovered this amazing fragment of Pallava art. He shared the relevant extracts from the book ‘Art I Adore’ by Shri Amal Ghose - ‘A book on art based on interviews with K. Ramamurty’
The account starts with an artist proudly showing off a receipt - a receipt for a fine fresco painting of the seventh century origin, copied by an unemployed artist, just four years after India achieved Independence. It read as below
” This is to certify that his Museum purchased from Shri K. Ramamurti, artist, a copy of the mural painting of the Pallava period from the temple at Panamalai. Mr. Ramamurti was the very first artist to copy this interesting mural. - Superintendent, Government Museum, Madras. ”
The account of how he found the amazing work is heart rendering. Mr Ramamurti chanced on a newspaper (The Hindu) article about a foreigner camping at Pondicherry Ashram throwing a hint that there were faint lines indicating a vanishing Fresco on the temple wall in a temple he visited in Panamalai hills.
He saw his chance to discover a piece of history and set himself on the task. He had to pawn his wife’s jewels to undertake the journey, but when he landed there - the priests and local had no knowledge of such a fresco. He did not deter and went ahead to search every inch of the temple, sleeping there itself. On the 15th day of his search, he found a faint line in one of the inner shrines. Was it indicative of a head? He painstakingly started removing the layers of plaster that had been put on the original painting to reveal the Umai of Panamalai.
He then remembered the wet process his Guru Deviprasad had taught him, for mastering the water color. Applying the same process slowly but accurately, he produced the marvelous Panamalai Parvati for proper preservation for Posterity’s immense happiness.
Many years later when he was asked if he remembered anything more about the discovery he says
” Nothing but the heavenly joy I tasted at those unforgettable moments of the discovery of the Panamalai fresco has remained fresh in my heart.’ He was Kora Ramamurti
I am not sure where the said reproduction exists in the Madras Museum. It would be great if we can find it. In order to truly appreciate the greatness of the artist - i take you closer to view how the artist has used the shades of green to provide the contour of the face and then the clear highlight to bring out the nose.
A big salute to the discoverer and a bigger salute to the master artist, we continue our own effort at recreating the masterpiece.
Smt Subhashini the artist, talks of the challenging task
Recreating Panamalai Umai was a wonderful experience. Starting with what was available and slowly discovering the lost pieces turned out to be an enjoyable process. Especially when you have Mr Vijay helping with required references and hi resolution images, everything falls in place perfectly.
When arrived at the first complete sketch of umai the amount of happiness we had can never be explained with words. But the best part of it was when I started painting. This time, I have used acrylic paint on canvas. Starting from the textured background and slowly revealing her layer by layer was like opening a very special gift wrapped in many layers.
Everystep was a discovery and it did have some guess work. And making this guess work look authentic was challenging.
On the whole, you see the development stage by stage here and I hope you will enjoy this as much as we did making it.
A feast for our eyes. The completed work.
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