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Asia Week

Indian and South East Asian Art


10 A.M., March 24, 2010

Sale 8618
Untitled by Husain

Lot 145, "Untitled," by Maqbool Fida Husain, 1965, oil on canvas, 27 by 100 ½ inches

By Michele Leight

Sotheby's sale of Indian and South East Asian art includes works from the collection of Emanuel Schlesinger, an important patron of Indian art, including Tyeb Mehta's "Untitled," (Lot 135, estimate $100,000 to $120,000). Illustrated above, (detail below), is Lot 145, "Untitled," by Maqbool Fida Husain (b. 1915), a rare and exceptionally fine early work, executed in 1955, depicting village life in the sumptuous colors of India. The estimate for Lot 145 is $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for a staggering $1,058,500, far exceeding its estimate, and worth it.

Detail of Lot 145

Detail of Lot 145, "Untitled," by Maqbool Fida Husain

Lot 143, "Couple at Sea Shore," by Maqbool Fida Husain, early 1960s, oil on canvas, 24 by 24 inches

Lot 143, "Couples at Sea Shore," also by Husain, is an oil on canvas that is 24 inches square. It has an estimate of $25,000 to 35,000. It sold for $68,500.

Lot 135, "Untitled," by Tyeb Mehta, 1959, oil on canvas laid on board, 24 by 36 inches

Lot 135 is a beautiful untitled work by Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009) that was acquired by Emanuel Schlesinger when he left Austria after the Nazi takeover and moved to Bombay. His intended destination was a small Jewish community in Shanghai, but he settled in Bombay instead when his boat made a scheduled stop there. Forced to leave his art behind when he fled Nazi-occupied Europe, Schlesinger, together with other Europeans, was extremely active in the cities art scene, which at the time included many artist's experimenting with new forms of painting, known now as the Progressive Artists Group. He began rebuilding his collection with gems like Mehta's "Untitled," which sold for $566,500, far exceeding its pre-sale estimate.

"L'Inconnu" by Raza

Lot 144, "L'Inconnu," by Syded Haider Raza 9, 1972, acrylic on canvas, 78 1/4 by 39 1/4 inches

The auction has early works of staggering beauty by Syed Haider Raza (b. 1922), Lots 144 and 146. The former is entitled "L'Inconnu" and is an acrylic on canvas that measures 78 1/4 by 39 1/4 inches and was executed in 1972. It has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $485,000. The latter is entitled "La Mer." It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $386,500.

"La Mer" by Raza

Lot 146, "La Mer," by Syed Haider Raza, 1974, acrylic on canvas, 48 1/4 inches square

"La Mer" (Lot 146) has a pre-sale estimate of $100,000 to 150,000. It sold for $386,500. The catalogue describes the artist's work as "characterized by the crossbreeding of the modernity of Europe and America and the spirituality of India. His evolution can be observed in the successive stages that structured his life: at every moment of his thought process life, nature and their mysteries have been forever present."

Untitled by Kumar

Lot 151, "Untitled," by Ram Kumar, 1997, acrylic on canvas, 22 by 23 inches

Nature dominates most of the paintings illustrated here, and Lot 151, an untitled acrylic on canvas by Ram Kumar (b. 1924) is no exception, rendered in soft earth tones and washes of blue. It measures 22 by 23 inches and has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $62,500.

Untitled by Swaminathan

Lot 152, "Untitled," by Jagdish Swaminathan 1928-1994, oil on canvas, 31 1/2 by 45 1/4 inches

Lot 152 is an untitled oil on canvas by Jagdish Swaminathan (1928-1994) that measures 31 1/2 by 45 1/4 inches and depicts a bird, a mountain and tree in his signature style that fuses the simple forms and compositions of Indian minature painting and an expanse of bold colors. In the catalogue, Isana Murty remarks that "I cannot recall anyone before swami using the vivid Indian yellow in the matter he did." The lot has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $290,500.

Mother Teresa by Bhattacharjee

Lot 167, "Untitled (Mother Teresa)," by Bikash Bhattacharjee, 1977, pencil and charcoal on paper, 29 by 22 inches

The Bengali artist Bikash Bhattacharjee (b. 1940) captures the strength and humanity of one of Bengal's - and India's - most famous citizens, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Lot 167, "Untitled (Mother Teresa)," has a pre-sale estimate of $7,000 to $10,000. It sold for $20,000.

Works from the Bengal School include the Poet Laureate Rabindranath Tagore's poetic - no pun intended - "Dumb Efforts and a Desperate Appeal to Emptiness," (Lot 116, estimate $20,000 to 30,000/Sold for $43,750), beautifully executed in Chinese ink, which he generously gifted to Indophile Alice Boner (not illustrated.)

South East Asian Art


Shakyamuni Buddha from Nepal

Lot 59, "Shakyamuni Buddha," Stone, Nepal, 6th to 7th Century, 29 ½ inches high; estimate $100,000

Sotheby's South East Asian Art sale features an eclectic selection of highly collectible treasures from the Himalayas, Khmer, Inner Mongolia, India and other exotic regions spanning several centuries, at prices ranging from reasonable for the graceful "Head of a Jina," (Lot 10, estimate $10,000 to $15,000, (illustrated below), to high for outstanding works like Lot 59, "Shakyamuni Buddha," carved from stone, from Nepal, illustrated above (estimate $100,000 to $150,000). Lot 10 sold for $3,750. Lot 59 sold for $182,500.


8th Century sandstone heads

Left: Lot 9, "Head of Vishnu," Red Sandstone, North India or Madhya Pradesh, 7th to 8th century, 14 1/2 inches high; Right: Lot 10, "Head of a Jina," Pink Sandstone, India, Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, 8th century, 13 7/8 inches high

Two stunning works from Tibet are illustrated below: Lot 60, "Shakyamuni Buddha," glows in gilt, inset with turquoise and beautifully painted. Lot 67, "Buddha," masterfully fashioned from gilt copper alloy a century earlier (14th Century) is seated serenely on a lotus pedestal, his face and hair painted in the Tibetan style. Lot 67 has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000, and is from the Francisco Capelo Collection. Lot 67 sold $314,500.

Lot 60, "Shakyamuni Buddha," Gilt Copper and Turquoise with Painted Details, Tibet, 15th Century, 14 3/8 inches high

Lot 60 is a 15th Century gilt copper with turquoise Buddha from Tibet. It is 14 3/8 inches high and has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000. It sold for $242,500.

14th Century Buddha from Tibet

Lot 67, "Buddha," Gilt Copper Alloy, Tibet, 14th Century, 18 1/2 inches high; estimate $250,000 to 350,000

Triumph over demons is a common theme in Tibetan sculptures. The exquisitely modeled Buddha in Lot 67 is depicted when the demon Mara is unable to distract him from his meditation. Mara questioned Shakyamuni's entitlement to seek spiritual enlightenment. He responded by reaching out, touching the ground, and stating: "The earth is my witness," which reputedly sent the demon packing.

"Boddisatva Maitreya from Inner Mongolia

Lot 72, "Boddisatva Maitreya," Parcel Gilt Copper with Semi-Precious Stones, Inner Mongolia, Dolonner, 18th Century, 24 inches high

Oozing mystery is the "Boddisatva Maitreya," from Inner Mongolia, (Lot 72, estimate $100,000 to $150,000), inset with semi-precious stones that holds her own in this line up of gorgeous masculinity. It failed to sell.

"Divine Couple" from Khmer

Lot 54, "Divine Couple," Sandstone, Khmer, Angkor Period, 12th Century, 31 1/4 inches

"Couples" are represented by a personal favorite, "Divine Couple," carved sinuously from sandstone, from Khmer. Also from Khmer, from approximately the same period and in the Angkor Vat style is a fabulous "Garuda Finial," (Lot 46, estimate $20,000 to 30,000), from the 12th to 13th century, depicting the bird-headed deity Garuda, whose forward-thrusting hands are framed by delicately wrought feathers. It failed to sell.

"Garuda Finial from Khmer

Lot 46, "Garuda Finial," Gilt Copper Alloy, Khmer, Angkor Vat Style, 12th to 13th century, 12 1/4 inches high

The Khmer Empire (Cambodia) emerged when the young rebel prince Jayavarman II sought independence from the kingdom of Shrivajaya, and became consecrated as a god-king. "Ang" means prince or princess - an unusually inclusive and unisex title - in the Khmer language. Angkor was the capital of the Cambodian Empire from the 9th to the 15th century, and Angkor Wat was the site of a Hindu Temple of extraordinary beauty, including gigantic sculptures, now sadly damaged by warfare.

Andesite head of a deity from Central Java

Lot 33, "Head of a Deity," Andesite, Central Java, Central Javanese Period, Circa 9th Century, 14 ½ inches high

The gentle "Head of a Deity," (Lot 33, estimate $60,000 to 90,000), also from the 9th century, and "Standing Buddha," (Lot 39, estimate $20,000 to 40,000), shown below, was sculpted in the 9th century, and epitomize peace and tranquility. Lot 33 sold for $74,500. Lot 39 failed to sell.

Standing Buddha

Lot 39, "Standing Buddha," Copper Alloy, Thailand, Mon-Dvaravati Period, 8th Century, 11 inches high


"Annakuta Picchavai"

Lot 77, "Annakuta Picchavai," India, Nathdwara, Mid-Late 19th Century, Pigments on Cloth, 89 x 67 ½ inches

Two Picchavai's illustrated, offer extraordinary value and great beauty: Lot 77, "Annakuta Picchavai," (estimate $12,000 to 18,000), rendered in brightly colored pigments on cloth, has the intricacy of a miniature - super-sized - and features Lord Krishna being worshipped at his shrine in Nathdwara, Rajasthan, India. It sold for $10,000.

"Rasalila Picchavai"

Lot 79, "Rasalila Picchavai," India, Nathdwara, Mid-Late 19th Century, Pigments on Cloth; 88 1/2 by 71 3/4 inches

Bolder in composition and sprouting foliage - banana leaves - "Lot 79, "Rasalila Picchavai," has an estimate of $ 10,000 to 15,000. It sold for $6,250.


Indian Miniatures


"Shah Abbas Receiving the Mughal Mission"

Lot 85, "Shah Abbas Receiving the Mughal Mission at Isfahan," Opaque Watercolor Heightened with Gold on Paper, Late-18th/Early-19th Century, 16 by 10 3/4 inches

Lot 85, the extraordinarily beautiful "Shah Abbas Receiving the Mughal Mission at Isfahan," illustrated above, was once in the collection of John Lord Northwick (1770-1859), and reputed to have been acquired by the first Governor General of India, Warren Hastings (1732-1818). In the early 20th century this miniature joined the prestigious collection of Boies Penrose II (1902-1976), of Philadelphia. Among other works from this collection, it will be offered for sale at Sotheby's after almost a century. Lot 85 has an estimate of $20,000 to 30,000. It sold for $43,750.

"Maharaja Shatrusal II"

Lot 104, "Maharaja Shatrusal II Presides Over a Celebration," 19th Century, opaque watercolor heightened with gold, 14 ¼ by 18 7/8 inches

Lot 104, "Maharaja Shatrusal II Presides Over a Celebration," 19th Century, is an opaque watercolor heightened with gold. It measures 14 1/4 by 18 7/8 inches and has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $12,500.

Sikh Prince Hawking

Lot 107, "A Sikh Prince Hawking," opaque watercolor heightened with gold, circa 1840, 11 1/4 by 8 7/8 inches

Lot 107, "A Sikh Prince Hawking," is an opaque watercolor heightened with gold, circa 1840. It measures 11 1/4 by 8 7/8 inches and has an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $10,000.

Krishna and the Gopis

Lot 101, "Krishna and the Gopis," Watercolor on Paper, Early-18th Century, 11 7/8 by 8 1/2 inches

Lot 101, "Krishna and the Gopis," is a watercolor on paper from the early 18th Century that measures 11 7/8 by 8 1/2 inches. It has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It failed to sell.

The exquisite miniatures illustrated above represent "pleasures," in human and divine form, from hawking and attending celebrations to cavorting with gopis. Miniatures have exerted an enormous influence on modern and contemporary Indian art, inspiring each new generation of artists in different ways. It is easy to see why.


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