Bhanavar the Beautiful by Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (1829-1904). 1894. Watercolour: H 30.8 x W 20.1 cm. © Victoria and Albert Museum, accession no. SD.911. Purchased with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund, Shell International and the Friends of the V&A. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

This illustration of Bhanavar in George Meredith's oriental fantasy, The Shaving of Shagpat (1856) shows her after her transformation from an innocent princess: wearing her magic jewel on her forehead, she dances exuberantly among the serpents as their queen. The work followed an earlier monochrome version commissioned for the frontispiece to the second edition of Shagpat. Meredith had later wanted to present a copy of it to a friend. Sandys must have been pleased with it too, because he showed it at the RA's Winter Exhibition in 1905.

With its swirling Art-Nouveau-ish curves and decadent subject matter, Bhanavar the Beautiful would doubtless have had tremendous appeal for Sandys's contemporaries. J. A. Hammerton attests to its success and popularity, describing it as a "well-known picture ... a fine decorative art work" (380),— Jacqueline Banerjee

Links to Related Material


Bhanavar the Beautiful. Victoria and Albert Museum. Web. 21 April 2023.

Hammerton, J. A. (Sir). George Meredith in Anecdote and Criticism. London: Grant Richards; New York: M. Kennerley, 1909. Internet Archive, from a book in the New York Public Library. Web. 21 April 2023.

Created 21 April 2023