Prince Naris: A Siamese Designer

by M.L.Chittawadi Chitrabongs

H.R.H. Prince Narisaranuvattiwongse (1863-1947) was a son of H.M. King Mongkut, Rama IV, and half-brother of H.M. King Chulalongkorn, Rama V. Popularly known as Prince Naris, he became the principal court designer during the reigns of King Rama V to King Rama VII. When Prince Naris began to draw, there was no Siamese conception of design. There was no art museum, and fine and applied arts were not taught at universities. Prince Naris understood the skills of the craftsman, and worked with Siamese craftsmen and Italian artists on royal commissions to open up a space for art in Siam. Since his death in 1947 until 2011, the sketches and drawings of Prince Naris remained untouched for 64 years in Ban Plainern, his private residence in Bangkok. In 2011 H.S.H. Princess Karnikar Chitrabongs (1916-2015), president of the Naris Foundation, marked the 150th year of Prince Naris’ birth by allowing the descendants of the Chitrabongs Family to photograph her father’s loose papers, sketchbooks, envelopes and waxed sheets. The findings are presented in this book. These images are not representations of final objects. Rather, they chart the steps taken by Prince Naris to imagine, visualise and design those final objects. He intended these drawings to move from their initial two-dimensional conception to three dimensions in their completed form. These preliminary drawings are the corpus of Prince Naris’ artistic output.