[Great Mosque of Mecca / اَلْمَسْجِدُ ٱلْحَرَامُ].
10.25 x 14.5 in (26.035 x 36.83 cm)
This is a rare c. 1900 Raja Ravi Varma chromolithograph view of the Masjid al-Haram (اَلْمَسْجِدُ ٱلْحَرَامُ), Mecca (مكة المكرمة), Saudi Arabia. Centered on the Kaaba (ٱلْكَعْبَة ), the view illustrates the Great Mosque during the Ottoman Period, when it had 7 minarets. The view was printed in Lonavala, India, by Raja Ravi Varma Press, one the first Indian owned and operated presses on the Subcontinent.
A Closer LookThe Kaaba (ٱلْكَعْبَة ) takes front and center, surrounded by arcades and supplementary buildings. All significant buildings, gates, and streets are labeled in Arabic. Some of the surrounding residential buildings are also noted - most of these have since been leveled for Saudi-era Mosque expansions. It bears an Arabic date, 1289 Hijri, roughly 1872 - presumably the date of the original artwork, as the lithograph itself could not have been produced any earlier than 1899, when the Raja Ravi Varma press moved to Lonavala.
ChromolithographyChromolithography, sometimes called oleography, is a color lithographic technique developed in the mid-19th century. The process involved using multiple lithographic stones, one for each color, to yield a rich composite effect. Oftentimes, the process would start with a black basecoat upon which subsequent colors were layered. Some chromolithographs used 30 or more separate lithographic stones to achieve the desired product. Chromolithograph color could also be effectively blended for even more dramatic results. The process became extremely popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it emerged as the dominate method of color printing. The vivid color chromolithography produced made it exceptionally effective for advertising and propaganda imagery.
Publication History and CensusThis view was printed in the Lonavala workshop of the Raja Ravi Varma Press, Maharashtra, India. It is extremely scarce to the market. We note no institutional holdings, and it is not in the OCLC. However, we do note an example sold at Christies in April 2014, where paired with two other similar Varma views of Islamic sites, it fetched GBP 7,500.
Raja Ravi Varma Koil Thampuran (April 29, 1848 - October 2, 1906) was an Indian painter and lithographer active in Travancore in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was born in Kilimanoor, Travancore, and was closely related to the Royal family of present-day Kerala. His descendants account for the totality of the present royal family of Travancore, including the latest three Maharajas (Balarama Varma III, Marthanda Varma III and Rama Varma VII). He served as the Royal Court Painter from 1857 - 1872. As a painter, Varma is known as one of the greatest Indian painters, admired for his ability to fuse European academic art with a purely Indian sensibility and iconography. In 1894, on the urging Raja Sir Tanjore Madhava Rao (1828 - 1891) of Travancore, he founded the Raja Ravi Varma Press in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. It was one of the first Indian owned and operated lithographic presses on the subcontinent. In 1899, to was relocated to Malavli near Lonavala, Maharashtra and began issuing chromolithographs. His work originally consisted of Hindu religious prints, but later he expanded to Islamic and secular prints. Although the largest and most innovative press in India at the time, it was not an economic success. Deeply in debt, the press was sold to the German printer Fritz Schleicher, who turned it around by broadening the work to include commercial advertising work. Raja Ravi Varma Press remained active until 1972, when the factory was destroyed in a devastating fire. Learn More...
Good. Some edge wear and minor verso reinforcements along edge. Varnished over. Toning. Some creasing to paper.