During day, this descendant of a famous French family, which at one time was jewellery consultant to the Tsars, dons his business suit and advises the rich on how to invest in the most exclusive items of jewellery and ornamentation. At night, the insomniac sits at his table, wearing three spectacles, and painstakingly cuts his chocolate wrappers into tiny 1mm square pieces, and uses them to embellish his delicate watercolour paintings of Indian divinity.
Olaf Van Cleef's art defies ordinary definitions. In a single drawing sheet, you will find art deco influence, a hint of Mughal miniaturism and a mosaic of crystals, wrappers and sequins, covered with as many as 30 ?different colours, all composed of tiny pieces of chocolate foil. All telling a mythological tale from the Gita or a scene from Krishnaleela.
Van Cleef sometimes takes a little too much liberty. So, do not be surprised if the palace you see in the backdrop of a Ram-Sita portrait resembles a Yorkshire castle or see Vishnu rise from the ocean on a bed of lettuce leaves.
"This is my interpretation of India," says the artist who was in Mumbai recently, on what he calls a routine trip. "It is my gift to the country that has inspired me since childhood. I want to be a small ambassador of your country to you."