Marsi Paribatra: the Royal Surrealist


La Menace (1994).

Two paintings by Princess Marsi Paribatra, a member of the royal family of Thailand who lists Dalí, Arcimboldo and Titian among her artistic influences. If it seems surprising that a princess should not only be an accomplished painter but also be possessed of a distinctly vivid imagination we might ask why this is the case. There’s no reason why a member of a royal family shouldn’t be as good a painter as anyone else although it’s the case that here in Britain our views of royalty are inevitably tainted by the uninspiring members of the current House of Windsor. Prince Charles in particular is a singularly dreary and frequently philistine figure, and also a painter whose daubs would never have received any attention at all were it not for his being born into the right family.

This hasn’t always been the case. It used to be that being an aristocrat gave you the free time and the wealth to indulge no end of manias and eccentricities. The British Isles are littered with architectural follies of various kinds built to appease the whims of rich landowners; William Beckford (1760–1844) is renowned for having written the Gothic melodrama Vathek and also for having built the lavish (and unfortunately short-lived) pile of Fonthill Abbey. In the 20th century we had Edward James (1907–1984), a lifelong champion of Surrealism who spent much of his later life building Las Pozas in the Mexican jungle at Xilitla, a concrete fantasia which looks like something dreamed up by Antonio Gaudí and JG Ballard. James collected the work of Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning and I’d imagine him being equally entranced by some of Marsi Paribatra’s paintings. The recurrence of skeletal figures in her work invokes the Mexican Day of the Dead traditions which always excited the Surrealists.


No title or date available.

Dali House has more about Marsi Paribatra’s life and art while further examples of her paintings can be found here and here. Thanks again to Monsieur Thombeau for pointing the way!

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The fantastic art archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism
Return to Las Pozas
The art of Leonor Fini, 1907–1996
Surrealist women
Las Pozas and Edward James

8 thoughts on “Marsi Paribatra: the Royal Surrealist”

  1. As a long time member of the National Trust, i often think the only truly worthwhile thing any member of the aristocracy did (does?) is pay for something beautiful to be created, or to live a truly outrageous life.
    People cant choose what circumstances they are born in, its what you do afterwards that counts. Just being the usual chinless fox hunting inbred doesnt really cut it.
    Ive always thought that there are two types of aristocrat – those born into it and those who create themselves – an aristocracy of the imagination – which is open to anyone.
    If Prince Charles could create something as beautiful as Marsi Paribatras’ paintings he might be worth a tiny fraction of the money hes paid by the British people.
    These are truly wonderful paintings, i wonder if the untitled one has something to say about privilege?

  2. These are gorgeous, rather like more densely-populated Leonora Carrington. I’d never heard of her before. Thanks!

    I suppose just having the money to indulge your tastes in art doesn’t necessarily mean you have any taste to indulge. I work in restoration of historic houses, and have seen some absolutely god-awful things owned by people who could afford to indulge their “artistic” tastes. The only other good royal artist I can think of is the Swedish Prince Eugen, but the only reasonable reproduction of any of his paintings I can find is this and it is one of those paintings that doesn’t reproduce well. I saw it years ago at a Hayward show of Scandinavian painters and was very impressed by it, but can’t find out much about him – his Wikipedia page concentrates on his genealogy, which seems to be the very least interesting thing about him. I have also seen some very bad oils done by Prince Phillip, but they definitely come under the category of “relatively harmless hobby”, rather than actual art.

  3. AlyxL: I was wondering if there were any other royal painters…decent ones, that is. I hadn’t come across Prince Eugen before, thanks. In addition to being immortalised by Dorothy Parker, Marie of Romania also wrote fairy stories.

    Lord Cornelius Plum: You’ve no doubt seen some of those TV films which Lucinda Lambton presented in the 80s and 90s, many of which featured follies and eccentric aristocrats not unlike herself.

  4. Many thanks for this post: I was previously unaware of the artist and her work.

    There are currently two major exhibitions on in the U.K. which should be of great interest to aficionados of Surrealism.

    The Barbican Gallery in London has “The Surreal House” , a “labyrinth” of rooms containing works by a host of Surrealist artists Exhibition runs to 12 September 2010.

    The Dean Gallery in Edinburgh, part of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, has “Another World: Dali, Magritte, Miro & the Surrealists”. In addition to many important loan works from other galleries, the SNGMA’s important and extensive collection of Surrealist art will be on display in its entirety for the first time. The exhibition runs until 09/01/2011, so plenty of time for anyone interested to make the trip to “Auld Reekie” to see the assembled treasures.

  5. Hi Jeremiah. I linked to the Barbican exhibition in one of the weekend posts a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t know about the Edinburgh show, however. There’s also Surreal Friends at the Pallant House Gallery. Seems to be a surreal summer in Britain.

  6. Hello, all. Could anyone let me know if it’s possible to order posters of Princess Marsi Paribatra’s art? I would like to share them with my friends, but so far I have come up with no sites to order anything.

  7. If you’ve searched then it’s likely that nothing is yet available. Despite places like Allposters having a huge selection of pictures, not all artists have their work available in poster form.

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