A moment captured in a masterpiece

The painting 'Lady with the Lamp' in Jaganmohan Palace Mysuru

The Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery at Jaganmohan Palace, also the royal gallery, has among its masterpieces the celebrated ‘Glow of Hope’ painting, also commonly referred as the ‘Lady with a Lamp.’ The water-colour work executed by S L Haldankar has made his daughter, Gita Uplekar, continue to fascinate art-lovers visiting the Art Gallery of the Wadiyar’s family. Gita Uplekar passed away recently at the age of 102 in Maharashtra. She was married to a jeweller Krishnakant Uplekar.

This painting is a beautiful work of light and shade effect executed by the renowned painter with his third daughter, Gita, as a model.

On her 100th birthday, Geeta revealed how the work came about. She said that her father saw her with a lamp on Diwali. As she held the lamp, she was trying to cover it with one hand to protect the flame from the wind. The lit up lamp had brought up the colours of the beautiful saree she had worn. The saree belonged to her mother. The orange of the flame was passing through the gaps of her fingers, besides illuminating her face. 

Simple work of art

Haldankar was drawn to the beautiful sight and asked his daughter to pose for a sketch. She was just 12 years then. The painting was completed in just three days and she had to pose for three hours continuously everyday, Geeta recalled.

Haldankar had painted all three of his daughters, but the ‘Glow of Hope’ stood out among them. Later, the painting was bought to the gallery by Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar. Over the years, ‘Glow of Hope’ has become a prized possession of the gallery, which also exhibits the masterworks of Raja Ravi Varma, in the adjoining hall. Haldankar’s painting was mistaken by many as a creation of Ravi Varma. Interestingly, it is said that Haldankar created a water-colour work and not an oil painting to show that a water-colour work could be executed without a single mistake, unlike an oil paint which can be corrected.

Housed in an exclusive room on the second floor, the visitors to the gallery can observe the fascinating effect of light and shade of the masterpiece. When the window is closed, the light and the subtle shades of her saree and the glowing brass lamp are beautifully brought out, fascinating the art lovers. 

The lady in the painting is holding a lit lamp in her left hand and covering the flame with her right palm to protect it from the wind. She is wearing a simple, traditional saree with a coloured-border. The shadow behind her highlights the effect of the painting. When the light is switched off the glowing effect of the lamp turns realistic.

Haldankar hailed from Sawantwadi in Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. Seeing his talent in his early years his headmaster persuaded him to go to Mumbai. After thorough practice, Haldankar carved a niche for himself. He established the Haldankar Fine Arts Institute in 1908, and the Art Society of India, along with a few friends, in 1918. According to his granddaughter, Sampada Haldankar, “He also received two commendation certificates from the Royal Society of British Artists, London, and the Governor’s Prize by the British Government of Bombay Presidency in 1910, 1927 and 1932. In Independent India, he was felicitated by Dr Rajendra Prasad, and was made a fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi.”

The Jaganmohan Palace was built about 157 years ago and the art gallery was set up later. Gallery superintendent M G  Narasimhan says the painting may be moved probably to the ground floor so that more visitors can see it, particularly the elderly, after the ongoing renovation. 

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A moment captured in a masterpiece

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