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Empires of LightVision, Visibility and Power in Colonial India$
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Niharika Dinkar

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526139634

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7765/9781526139641

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Impossible subjects: the subaltern in the shadows

Impossible subjects: the subaltern in the shadows

Chapter:
(p.218) 6 Impossible subjects: the subaltern in the shadows
Source:
Empires of Light
Author(s):

Niharika Dinkar

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7765/9781526139641.00015

Taking a small portrait by Ravi Varma of a scholar reading in the glow of a lamp as a servant waits upon him in the background shadows, this chapter evaluates the emergence of the elitist figure of the artist against the backdrop of the subaltern craftsman. The differential inscription of light marks their place within the new order of visibility – the named artist whose face glows in the lamp and the anonymous craftsman marked by his labour. Keeping in mind recent art-historical scholarship that has tended to view the figure of the artist as the paradigmatic modern subject, this chapter tracks the developments in portraiture and the assertion of individualism, arguing that the representation of the elite artist allowed for a way to transition from the dominant anthropological model of portraiture popular in nineteenth-century India to the fiction of the assured subjectivity of later portraits.

Keywords:   Ravi Varma, Shadows, Artist, Subaltern, Craftsman, Labour, Portraiture, Elite, Subjectivity

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