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A new Book on the portrait bust of Raja Rammohun Roy - by David Wilson
This concise and beautifully illustrated book by David Wilson tells the story of the most important sculpted portrait of Raja Rammohun Roy (probably 1772 - 1833).

The Raja was ‘the greatest creative personality of nineteenth-century India’, a man who became a great celebrity and was fêted by King William IV and members of the Royal Family following his arrival in England in 1831.

An exceptionally rare and important ivory bust of the great Indian religious and social reformer, it was carved in London in 1832 by the renowned Benjamin Cheverton with the aid of a mechanical invention. The ivory bust is an exact replica in miniature of a lost life-size bust modelled from life by the London-based sculptor, George Clarke, today almost unknown, but regarded by contemporary critics as one of the finest living portraitists.

David Wilson discusses the ivory bust in the context of two well-known portraits of the Raja painted between 1831 and 1833. Through his narrative on the creation of this bust - the best and most accurate three-dimensional likeness in existence of Rammohun Roy – Wilson reappraises the life and work of the sculptor, Clarke, and investigates his relationship with Cheverton, in the process revealing significant information about both artists not recorded by previous commentators. Through his study of this exceptional bust - a wonderful portrait in three dimensions of Rammohun Roy - the author describes a great work of art, the extraordinary output of an important period when art and machinery combined to produce objects of exquisite beauty.

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."

David WilsonWilson 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".

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."

See a short video on the unveling of the bust at Bristol in You Tube Bristol Remembers Rammohun Roy. The video is made by Suman Ghosh.