Manifestations of Vishnu, folk and tribal art headline Saffronart’s April auctions
Saffronart’s upcoming online auctions, Classical Indian Art and Living Traditions: Folk and Tribal Art, will be held from 10 – 12 April. With a focus on India’s court, colonial and indigenous art forms, the auctions feature artworks whose visual appeal harks back to traditions which are centuries old. Both auctions should appeal to collectors looking to diversify their art collection. The lots on offer are attractively priced, ranging from INR 1 to 35 lakhs for Classical Indian Art, and INR 30,000 – 5 lakhs for Living Traditions.
CEO Hugo Weihe commented, “We are pleased to announce Saffronart's spring online auctions: a sale of Classical Indian Art followed by Living Traditions. We have expanded the range of works offered in both sales. The exquisite miniatures and exceptionally carved sculptures in Classical Indian Art are complemented by a selection of rare books on art. These books underscore the scholarship that was crucial in providing a deeper understanding and appreciation of antiquities from the subcontinent. The group of Patna Company School paintings are important as they are a very rare group with an excellent provenance. They are an extraordinary rediscovery as they have not been seen since English art historian Mildred Archer published a study on them in 1947.”
Classical Indian Art (link) features 88 lots spanning a variety of sculptures, miniature paintings, Company School paintings and rare books. Among the Medieval stone, sculptures are two exceptional renditions of Vishnu, the Vamana (lot 52, estimated at INR 30 – 50 lakhs) and a Head of Vishnu (lot 74, estimated at INR 15 – 20 lakhs), with an exquisite quality of carving rarely matched. The Company School paintings are of special significance. Company School refers to paintings made in British India between the late 1700s and early 1800s, which document local customs, flora and fauna. Auction highlights include works by Patna artists Hulas Lal and his descendant, Bani Lal, who were masters of the Company School style. Hulas Lal is one of the few, rare artists whose works have survived from this early period. Bani Lal, who developed a naturalistic style of painting, was known for his vivid and precise documentation of life in colonial India. Paintings by both artists were the subject of English art historian Mildred Archer’s Patna Painting, an essay on Company School paintings with select examples of this style.
Paintings by both artists also feature in the collections of leading museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Leading the category of rare books is Ordhendra Chandra Gangoly’s Masterpieces of Rajput Painting (lot 34), a rare publication from 1926 which features select examples of Rajput painting. Estimated between INR 2 – 2.5 lakhs (USD 3,125 – 3,910), the book is numbered “70” from a limited edition of 210 copies and is presented in a portfolio box. Gangoly was a leading authority on Indian art. He founded the Indian Society of Oriental Art in 1907 and subsequently published Rupam, an illustrated quarterly journal of Indian art which was in circulation between 1920 and 1930.
Living Traditions (link) features paintings, embroidery and sculpture that exemplify India’s indigenous traditions. Highlights from the sale include Bhuta masks from Karnataka and Kerala, Chamba rumals from Himachal Pradesh, as well as Gond, Madhubani and Bastar art. Baghai Devata (lot 24), an endearing painting by Sita Devi, leads the auction at INR 4 – 6 lakhs (USD 6,250 – 9,375). Mithila artist Sita Devi was famed for the Bharni style of painting, which involves outlining the subject in black, and filling the areas with colour. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1981, and her work was admired by many noted dignitaries including President Dr. Rajendra Prasad, and Prime Ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi. Bhagai Devata captures the vibrancy and colourful essence that is the embodiment of Mithila painting. Also among the highlights is Jagdamba Devi’s Untitled (Krishna with Gopis) (lot 29), offered at INR 1.5 – 2 lakhs (USD 2,345 – 3,125). Jagdamba Devi is credited with bringing official recognition to Mithila painting, when she received the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, in 1970. She has been extensively covered in the press for her achievements. Also on offer are Gond artist Jangarh Singh Shyam’s Untitled, 1997 (lot 13), at INR 60,000 – 80,000 (USD 940 – 1,250); two Maisandaya bull masks from Karnataka or Kerala (lots 9 and 10), estimated at INR 2.5 – 3 lakhs (USD 3,910 – 5,470) each; a circa 19th century Pilichamundi mask from Karnataka or Kerala (lot 23), estimated at INR 3 – 4 lakhs (USD 4,690 – 6,250); a circa 20th century Banta mask from Karnataka or Kerala (lot 56), estimated at INR 4.5 – 5.5 lakhs (USD 7,035 – 8,595); and a painting by Warli artist Jivya Soma Mashe (lot 61), estimated at INR 70,000 – 90,000 (USD 1,095 – 1,410).
“Living Traditions is a celebration of tradition and craftsmanship. We wanted to include a range of art forms from across India which showcases the depth and diversity of imagination and skill. These traditions are passed down from generation to generation and form an aesthetic continuum with contemporary art forms. To illustrate this, we have included paintings by artists who have infused a very old tradition with the vibrancy of contemporary scenes,” said Weihe.