Bai Sunabai Temuljee Nariman

Bai Sunabai Temuljee Nariman
Social activist and philanthropist

by Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906)
dated 1890

Oil on canvas
58 x 38 in. (147.5 x 96.5 cm.)

Bai Sunabai Temuljee Nariman was loved and known for her social
services and activities. She supervised and offered her services for
the proper functioning of the Parsi Lying-in Hospital, the first of
its kind, founded by her husband, Temuljee Bhicaji Nariman. She
was also noted for her other generous donations and philanthropic
activities. Her husband was appointed as the Sheriff of Bombay in
1914.

This portrait was commissioned by friends of Temuhljee and
Sunabai to Raja Ravi Varma. They gifted this to the Bai Sunabai as
a token to celebrate her services she offered at the hospital.
Ravi Varma’s first visit to Bombay was in circa 1881, with the idea
of establishing his printing press. In order to do so, he did various
commissioned portraits of wealthy patrons in Bombay and sold
some of his Puranic works. The overlapping of various events of
the 1890s also draws for us a collective picture of a professional
base of Ravi Varma, such as the setting up of his studio, starting of
the Ravi Varma Press in 1894, and almost all of his Parsi portraits
are dated in 1890s. This portrait of Bai Sunabai Nariman is one of
the many portraits done by Varma, which also led him to become a
household name in the city.