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Saffronart’s forthcoming auctions feature rare finds

From medieval stone sculptures to recently rediscovered British-era paintings, the online auctions feature a remarkable selection

‘Untitled’ (Baghai Devata), circa 1970s, by Sita Devi.  Photo: Saffronart
‘Untitled’ (Baghai Devata), circa 1970s, by Sita Devi. Photo: Saffronart

Saffronart has two big online auctions scheduled in the coming week. While one offers an exquisite collection of classical Indian art, the other provides a formidable selection of folk and tribal art.

The Classical Indian Art auction features stone sculptures from the medieval era, which includes the intricately carved Vamana, a piece representing Lord Vishnu’s dwarf avatar. It’s estimated to fetch Rs30-50 lakh. Another piece expected to draw attention is the Head Of Vishnu (estimated to fetch Rs15-20 lakh). These sculptures, along with miniature paintings, will be complemented by a collection of limited-edition books—including Ordhendra Coomar Gangoly’s Masterpieces Of Rajput Painting (1926), a crucial offering on Rajput art.

“We also have a superbly detailed folio from the Gita Govinda series (lot 5) from Mewar, circa 1720, depicting Krishna awaiting Radha in his bower," says Saffronart chief executive officer Hugo Weihe. “Every small detail, from the gradation of the foliage to the translucent odhnis and bejewelled ornaments, speaks volumes about the remarkable skill and patience the artists possessed."

A rare collection of Company School paintings will also be offered at the Classical Indian Art auction. “Company", or firangi, art was a term given to works that reflected an Anglo-Indian style of painting. It flourished in British India between the late 1700s and early 1800s. Mirroring the miniature tradition, the works, marked by muted colours, recorded the everyday rituals of local people and depicted ancient monuments, streets and landscapes.

What one must look for, particularly, are the recently rediscovered works of Patna artists—Hulas Lal, a 19th century master, as well as his descendant, Bani Lal—both of whom adopted the Company style. “The paintings are from the collection of the family (of the artists). They have been treasured within the family for generations," says Weihe. “We were shown these paintings by a member of the family, and were enthralled by the insights we received on the works. Some of the paintings on auction were discovered by English historian Mildred Archer in 1947, who published a book on them. These paintings have not been seen since. We are excited to auction this fine selection."

Living Traditions: Folk And Tribal Art offers a selection of embroidery work, paintings and sculptures which reflect the subcontinent’s indigenous heritage. The works include paintings by Gond, Bastar and Madhubani artists. There is artwork by Sita Devi, for instance—a Mithila artist known for her bharni (filling) style. Awarded the Padma Shri in 1981, Sita Devi was one of the first folk artists to move from traditional wall painting to paper.

There is also the work of the internationally recognized Bhopali artist Jangarh Singh Shyam, who introduced Gond tradition to mainstream art. Shyam’s Landscape With Spider (1988), for instance, was featured in Sotheby’s auction in New York—a first for an Indian folk artist.

The Classical Indian Art auction will be held from 10-11 April, and Living Traditions: Folk And Tribal Art, from 11-12 April.

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