Royal Nepal: Through the Lens of Richard Gordon Matzene

Table of Contents:
Preface: Gautam SJB Rana
Foreword: John Whelpton
Introduction & Acknowledgements
Richard Gordon Matzene (1880-1950)
Brief Rana History
Royal Portraits of the 1930s
In 1930, the celebrated American photographer Richard Gordon Matzene made a unique series of portraits of the ruling families of Nepal. Matzene's popularity with Indian royals who commonly married Nepalese counterparts facilitated his invitation to Nepal at a time when that country was closed to outsiders. Upon reaching Kathmandu after an arduous journey over formidable terrain with no roads, Matzene became the 27th foreigner to enter the country. The handsome aristocrats and sumptuously adorned women in Matzene's pristine photographs are identified and their biographies presented within the panoply of Nepalese court drama and intrigue. Local and regional conquests, two world wars, a devastating earthquake and the rampant malaria that challenged the regime are all part of this story.

Matzene's personal history reveals a mysterious, enigmatic character who led a fairytale life in the first decades of the twentieth century. With an alias or two, Matzene called himself a count yet never revealed his true nationality. Cards and letters from his Nepalese hosts received in Ponca City, Oklahoma, Matzene's home from 1927 to the time of his death in 1950, attest to a lasting friendship won by his legendary panache and sophistication. Matzene's biography, the first chapter of this book, notes his personal charm that allowed him to negotiate Nepalese court etiquette and Hindu culture and produce the photographs that conjure rich personal stories in a national ethos that now exists only in memory.

Richard Gordon Matzene
Richard Gordon Matzene internationally recognized photorapher with studios in Bejing, Shimla, New York, Chicago and Hollywood from 1920-50

Nepalese Prime Minister Bhim SJB Rana wife and daughter 1930. Photograph by Matzene
Nepalese Prime Minister Bhim SJB Rana wife and daughter 1930. Photograph by Matzene

Brahma and Mrigenda SJB Rana  photograph by R.G. Matzene
Brahma and Mrigenda SJB Rana Photograph By R.G. Matzene

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