A previously unknown ivory portrait bust of Indian social reformer Rammohun Roy was unveiled by an art historian at the Arnos Vale Cemetery here at a commemoration event to mark the 180th anniversary of his death Sep 27, 1833.
Every year, this south-west English town holds a commemoration event to mark Roy's death anniversary in Arnos Vale, where his remains were interred in an Indian-style tomb built by Dwarkanath Tagore in 1843.
Describing the ivory bust, art historian David Wilson Sunday said it was made in 1832 by the noted nineteenth century English ivory carver, Benjamin Cheverton (1796-1876).
The ivory bust is a replica of a bigger bust by noted English sculptor George Clarke (1796-1842), for whom Roy sat in London. Roy arrived in Liverpool in April 1831 and died here in 1833.
Wilson said: "Rammohun Roy had a dislike of portraits and personal adulation, but agreed to sit to the sculptor as a favour to Basil Montagu, whose own bust had earlier been carved by Clarke. Montagu was a friend of Rammohun Roy, and held literary soirees at his house in Bedford Square, very near to the house of the Hare bothers at which Rammohun Roy lived while in London."
Wilson told IANS that details about the ivory bust were traced after nearly six months of research after he was approached by the owner who wanted to remain anonymous.
The owner also consulted local historian Carla Contractor, who has led the commemoration event in the Arnos Vale cemetery for the last 25 years. She described the ivory bust as "magnificent, absolutely beautiful".
The bust is raised on a Rosso Antico-type marble plinth, the ivory, including turned socle, 11 cm high; 18 cm high overall including marble plinth. It is considered as the best and most accurate three-dimensional likeness of Rammohun Roy.
Clarke's bust of Rammohun Roy is said to be missing, but a life-size plaster cast replica of the bust made by Clarke, since damaged and painted white to resemble marble, is in the library of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj in Kolkata, the gift in 1936 of a descendant of Dwarkanath Tagore.
Wilson said: "Rammohun Roy had his features immortalised by one of the greatest artists of the day, George Clarke, and therefore Cheverton's exact replica in ivory of Clarke's missing bust is very significant in the iconography of Rammohun Roy."
He added: "It is the best and most accurate three-dimensional likeness of Rammohun Roy in existence, and it is probably the most exotic, interesting and important of all ivory busts made by Cheverton."
Sunday's event was attended by a large gathering that included the Lord Mayor of Bristol, members of the Brahmo Samaj in London and several members of the Indian and Bangladeshi communities in Bristol and other parts of Britain.
A bust depicting Rammohun Roy presented by the former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu in 1995 is placed in the Council house in the city centre. Nearby, a life-size statue of Roy by noted sculptor Niranjan Pradhan was installed in 1997, the 50th anniversary of India's independence.
(Prasun Sonwalkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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