After graduating from the Sir J.J. School of Art in 1944, Jehangir Sabavala studied painting in Europe at the Heatherly School of Art, London (1945-47), The Academie Julian and Academie André Lhote, Paris (1953-54) and The Academie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris (1957). His paintings reflect the cosmopolitanism of the post World War II era and the several years he spent studying Classicism, Impressionism and later Cubism under the tutelage of the painter and art historian André Lhote.
Executed in the 1950s, this portrait is a stunning example of his merging styles and his growing affinity for Cubism. This portrait, with its angularity, strong art deco stylistic treatments and reference to the ideals of classical proportation bears resemblence to works by Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980). As one of the most sought after portraitists during the late 1920s and 1930s, de Lempicka combined elements from French Cubism, Purism and Neo-Classicism. Her portraits were modern-looking and perfectly reflected the liberated assertiveness and opulence of the Parisian post-war annes folles and the fabled American Jazz Age.
Sabavala's model with her modern coiffure, lowered gaze, tilted head, slanted shoulder and decorative floral background, reminds us of de Lempicka's masterpiece Portrait de Madame M., 1932. In much the same way as de Lempicka's portrait mirrors the social ideals of a well-heeled and influential class with good taste, Sabavala's portrait mirrors the spirit of the sophisticated, well-travelled and highly educated Parsi women of Bombay. Rare within his oeuvre, Sabavala's portrait despite it's precise, hard lines is delicate and refined.