Ramaswamy Naidu was a contemporary of Raja Ravi Varma and was the court artist of Travancore. Naidu was trained both in the traditional style and in the current style of western illusionism. At a time when Ravi Varma was keen to study oil painting, Naidu refused to teach him, sensing in him a potential rival. Several sources suggest that this rebuke encouraged Ravi Varma to excel in this genre, and ironically it was Naidu's pupils who helped Varma secretly learn the technique of oil painting.
Ramaswamy Naidu remained Ravi Varma's rival seeking to outpaint him at the Madras Exhibition of 1873. Although Ravi Varma is supposed to have won the prize at the prestigious Vienna Universal Exhibition the same year, it was Naidu who was mentioned in the exhibition catalogues.
This portrait of a young priest demonstrates the artist's grasp of the new technique of western illusionism.