Twelve original oil paintings of noted painter Raja Ravi Varma, worth several crore of rupees, are missing from the government-owned art gallery in Thiruvanantha-puram where they were kept.
His great granddaughter, Archana Narayan, noticed the loss about four months ago and has moved the Kerala High Court seeking a CBI probe into the missing paintings.
In 1940, 75 paintings were sent from Kilimanoor Palace, 40 km north of here, to be exhibited at the Sri Chitra Art Gallery.
After Independence, the art gallery was taken over by the Kerala government. Now, it says, it has only 63 of these paintings. And worse, the stock register of the gallery (from 1935-70) can’t be found.
“The pilferage came to light when we were going through some old documents at the palace,” Narayan told Hindustan Times. “There are reports that some of these have been smuggled out.”
Varma’s paintings, mainly of scenes from Indian mythology and of saree-clad women, are in great demand. In 2007, one of his paintings, Vasantha Sena, was sold by auction house Christies’s in London for $420,000 (about Rs 1.8 crore). By that benchmark, the 12 paintings would be worth at least Rs 20 crore.
Kerala’s Home and Culture Secretary K. Jayakumar, under whose watch the gallery falls, said: “It has not come to our notice. Since the matter is before the court, let us wait for its directive.”