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Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II - Muses & the Beau Monde

Maharajadhiraj Raj Rajeshwar Sawai Shri Sir Yeshwant Rao II Holkar XIV Bahadur, born 6 September 1908 in Indore, was the Maharaja of Indore belonging to the Holkar dynasty of the Marathas. He is best know for his elegant portrait painted by Bernard Boutet de Moncel in 1929 and for his modernist palace, Manik Bagh, which embodied everything that was European and avant-garde.

Maharani Sanyogita and Maharaja Yeshwant

In the year 1924 he married Sanyogita Bai Sahib Holkar of Indore. The Maharaja and his wife Maharani Sanyogita both studied in England, he was educated at the Cheam School, Charterhouse and Christ Church, Oxford.

He succeeded his father Tukojirao Holkar III, who abdicated in his favour on 26 February 1926. He was installed on the throne on 11 March 1926 under a regency council and would be invested with full powers on 9 May 1930. The Maharaja and Maharani Sanyogita traveled Europe extensively. They visited America in 1936 where they were photographed in Hollywood on the set of "The Plainsman" with Gary Cooper and Cecil B. DeMille and with actress Gail Patrick.

The couple were photographed by the American Visual artist Man Ray in a series in 1927:

"The Maharaja of Indore came to the studio [in Paris] to be photographed, also in Western clothes - sack suits and formal evening dress. He was young, tall and very elegant. I got a substantial order from this sitting. […] Next year, the Maharaja was in the South of France with his young bride. He had taken an entire floor of a hotel in Cannes for himself and his retinue. I arrived in Cannes before noon, was assigned to my room in the suite […] The Maharanee was an exquisite girl in her teens. She wore French clothes, and a huge emerald ring. The Maharaja had bought it for her that morning while taking a walk. […] The next day I was asked to bring my camera to their suite […] to make a series of photographs that would be a record of their honeymoon. First, I had to play some jazz to which the subjects danced, and then they sat down holding hands. I made a few exposures, after which I suggested that they pose separately for individual portraits." - Man Ray

Two sets of double portraits of the Maharaja and Maharani were painted by Bernard Boutet de Monvel in 1929 and 1934.

In 1930 he commissioned the construction of the Manik Bagh ("Jewel Garden") palace in Indore. The architect was Eckart Muthesius from Germany. The Maharaja was at a young age at that time, as was Muthesius who was just a couple of years older. The work outside and inside were done in the late art deco and international style of modern architecture.

On 1 January 1935 he was made a Knight of the Order of the Indian Empire. The Maharaja established a legislative council for Indore state and created a cabinet with a prime minister and three ministers. K.S. Fitze, a British resident of Indore, remarked on the great amount of time the Maharaja spent abroad. Christie's art director Amin Jaffer takes this to exemplify his turn to the West.

The Maharaja was a major international collector of the finest art, jewellery, furniture and cars, all designed in Art Deco. In 1936 at the age of 27, the Maharaja ordered three cars, a 4.5-litre V12 Lagonda drophead coupé, an open two-seater sports body on a supercharged SJ Duesenberg chassis and a Bentley Aerofoil coupé, all finished in the striking Holkar colours of sunglow orange and black. Most of his cars he designed and finished himself in Art Deco style. He continued to collect beautiful cars for the rest of his life.

Maharani Sanyogita by Man Ray, 1927

Maharani Sanyogita passed away in 1937 at the age of 23 from complications after surgery in Switzerland.

In 1938 the Maharaja married Marguerite Lawler, of Fargo, North Dakota, and after their divorce, married in 1943 Euphemia "Fay" Watt, of Los Angeles (aka Lady Fay Holkar).

On 11 August 1947 he signed the document of accession to India. Indore State was included in the Union of Madhya Bharat on 28 May 1948. He served as the second Rajpramukh of this new state until 31 October 1956. He then worked for the United Nations.

Maharaja Yeshwant by Man Ray 1937

Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II died in a Mumbai hospital on 5 December 1961, aged 53. He is survived by his two children, Maharani Usha Raje of Indore, daughter of Maharani Sanyogita Devi, and Maharajkumar Shrimant Shivaji Rao "Richard" Holkar, son of Lady Fay Holkar (who himself has two children, Sabrina Sanyogita Holkar Ellis and Yashwantrao "Randall" Holkar III).

In 2019 the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris had an exhibition called "Moderne Maharaja" dedicated to Yashwant Rao Holkar II and his palace Manik Bagh, featuring some of the interior pieces such as the aluminium bed by Louis Sognot and Charlotte Alix.



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