The portrait of Raja Raja Varma has an austere, mystical quality that is more typical of a great religious painting than portraiture. Raja Raja Varma was the uncle of Ravi Varma, considered the father figure of modern Indian art. Raja Raja himself was a painter of merit in water colours. Belonging to nobility, painting was just a hobby with him, but he greatly encouraged his nephew who showed rare talent. The artist has depicted a realistic and convincing representation of the most respected man of Kilimanoor.
The artist has chosen a tanned skin tone for the weather beaten face, which shows the life experience in each line and wrinkle. He sports moustaches and a short beard. The inset eyes, the straight nose and the grim mouth seem a result of careful study. A silk shawl with a brocade border confirms his rich and royal status. The background is dark and bare, adding to the austerity of the portrait.