Unknown Parsi Gentleman
by J. A. Lalkaka (1884-1967)
Oil on board
29.9 x 24 in. (76 x 61 cm.)
The transformation of sensibilities of the Indian elite and middle classes, resulted in the Europeanization of the Parsi community. The community’s close proximity with the Britishers and sociopolitical relations created a dynamics that was specific to that time.
The Parsi portraits done during those times stood more of as a documentation and creation of pictorial memoirs. Many of Lalkaka’s portraits had formal postures, reserved body language and strict expressions displaying the socio-economic privileges that his subjects enjoyed.
The most striking feature of this portrait is that it is painted on the reverse side of a hardboard, which is a rougher surface than a canvas. This is a unique style which then layers the hardboard
with a thick surfacer, to get it ready for painting and also achieve a canvas-like effect. This was done to bring down the cost of the portrait, speed-up the work as well as could only be executed by a seasoned artist.