The Kilimanoor Palace Trust has expressed concern and anguish over the fire incident which occurred the other day at the Sree Chithra Art Gallery on the Museum premises in the capital.
Speaking to ‘Expresso’, Palace Trust joint secretary Biju Rama Varma said they had been requesting the governments that came time to time to hand over a part of the collection of the original paintings by Raja Ravi Varma to exhibit at Kilimanoor Palace, which had been the renowned artist’s ancestral home. But, so far, no Government has taken a positive stand on this request.
The fire, caused by a short circuit, could have resulted in a major disaster if the watchman at the art gallery had not noticed and doused the fire in time. Following this, the art gallery was closed to the public for an indefinite period.
Rama Varma said it was as a “permanent loan” that the Kilimanoor Palace handed over the most precious treasure of Ravi Varma’s paintings kept at the Chithralaya in Kilimanoor to the Sree Chithra Art Gallery back in 1941. He said several visitors from the country and abroad who visit the Kilimanoor Palace leave disappointed as there is not a single original painting of Artist Ravi Varma kept at the Chithralaya.
He pointed out that the Government had declared the palace as a protected monument in July 2007. An amount of Rs 30 lakh was sanctioned for the first phase of renovation, which was started on January 25, 2010. As the first phase of renovation has already been completed, it will be an apt decision to hand over a part of the original paintings to the Chithralaya.
Moreover, everybody knows that there are space constraints for exhibiting all paintings at the Sree Chithra Art Gallery.
Though over 70 paintings were handed over to the gallery, about ten paintings are still dumped in the store, denying the art lovers a chance to see them.
Government’s plans to construct a new building to house the precious paintings have not materialised so far.
Archana Varma, an eighth generation descendent of Raja Ravi Varma and member of the Kilimanoor Palace Trust who filed a public interest petition before the High Court seeking a CBI probe into the missing of Ravi Varma paintings from the country and praying for handing over a part of the paintings to the Kilmanoor Palace Trust, said the High Court had admitted the petition on July 14 and issued notices to the respondents - Government of Kerala, Government of India, Director of Archaeology Department, Museum Director and CBI - in this regard.
She said that J H Cousin, the art adviser to the Maharaja of Travancore, had taken the paintings from the Chithralaya at Kilimanoor Palace in 1941. The Palace records say that 78 oil paintings and 14 oleographs were shifted to the Art Gallery that year as permanent loan. But, according to a reply from the Museum Director made available under RTI Act in 2006, there were only 55 paintings.
Archana alleged that there was a mystery behind the fire incident immediately after the admission of the petition by the High Court. She said it was just five years ago that the rewiring was done at the gallery. The decision to close the gallery when the High Court had issued notices was also suspicious, she added.