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Indian and South East Asian Art Sale Announced at Sotheby's
MF Husain returns to one of the most important subjects in his work in an Untitled painting showing a woman riding a leaping horse (est. $80/120,000). Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s sale of Indian and South East Asian Art in New York on 24 March 2010 features a well curated selection of Indian, Himalayan and South East Asian works of art. A strong selection of Indian miniatures as well as modern and contemporary paintings are also included in the 184 lot sale that is estimated to fetch $5/7.3 million; the auction will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s from this Friday, 19 March.

Leading the modern paintings in the sale is an Untitled work by Manjit Bawa. The canvas is one of the largest paintings produced by the artist and the most important work by him ever to appear at auction (est. $200/300,000). The artist does not have a particularly large oeuvre, which adds to the importance of the present painting. A seemingly weightless figure hovers above two galloping horses depicted with a simplicity of line and form that contrasts with the bold gradation of color.

Modern Paintings
MF Husain returns to one of the most important subjects in his work in an Untitled painting showing a woman riding a leaping horse (est. $80/120,000). The horse has remained an enduring theme in Husain's works since the 1950s; the artist was fascinated by horses since his childhood which are a symbol of life force and energy in ancient Indian mythology.

An Untitled ‘Metascape’ work from Akbar Padamsee is a further highlight of the modern paintings in the sale (est. $80/120,000). These works place differing colors and textures next to each other to create compositions that hover between abstraction and representation. Whilst elements of the natural world are clearly discernible the painting is not rooted in any specific place or time.

A vivid composition by Jagdish Swaminathan depicting mountains, trees and birds is clearly reminiscent of Indian miniatures (Untitled, est. $100/150,000). The artist draws on the influences of an indigenous aesthetic which is coupled with vivid colors as part of his quest for the virginal state in art.

L’Inconnu painted in 1971 by Sayed Haider Raza (est. $120/180,000) marks a period of exploration in the artist’s career. The contrast between the raw, red vacuum at the top of the painting and the dense, layered colors below, signifies a search for identity in Raza’s life as he neared the age of fifty. The inscription on the painting, “let the path be unknown; let the heart remain in solitude” adds to the poignancy of the artist’s journey.

Buddhist Art from the Capelo Collection
Highlighting the Works of Art section of the sale is a group of 11 works from the Francisco Capelo Collection. Formed over the last two decades as part of a personal journey exploring Asia, the Capelo Collection includes not only the South and Southeast Asian, Tibetan and Nepalese objects of art in the upcoming Sotheby’s sale but an eclectic group of Tribal Art Chinese Ceramics through 20th century design and fashion.

In 1999 Mr. Capelo made a journey to Asia inspired by the centurieslong connection between Portugal and the continent. His collection was formed with the objective of educating Portuguese audiences with the ‘real’ Asia and was destined to be housed in a ‘Casa Asia’ museum in Lisbon. However, the works all with impeccable provenance from European and American collections, are now being offered at auction, providing a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire these treasures.

Among the highlights from the collection is a 14th century Gilt Copper Alloy Buddha from Tibet (est. $250/350,000, above). The sculpture depicts the moment when Shakyamuni, triumphs over the demon Mara who had been trying to distract him from his meditation. Mara attempted to question Shakyamuni’s entitlement to seek spiritual enlightenment to which he responded by reaching out and touching the ground, stating “The Earth is my witness,” an act that caused the demons to flee. This Buddha is particularly notable for its extraordinary richness of the gilding as well as for the superb modeling of the figure.

A further highlight is a Stucco Standing Buddha from the ancient region of Gandhara, of 3rd/4th century date (est. $150/180,000, right). It is very rare for stucco sculptures such as this to have survived intact; this example is particularly notable for the outstanding facial features which are rendered with grace and sensitivity.

Another highlight in the Works of Art section is a monumental South Indian granulite image of the Goddess Sridevi (est. $200/300,000) circa 1000, from a private Italian collection. This elegant sculpture depicting the Goddess standing in subtle tribhanga, was possibly part of a triad depicting the Hindu deity Vishnu with his consorts Bhudevi and Sridevi. The Goddess’ restrained posture, broad muscular proportions and serene, introspective expression, closely follow the classical style of the fourth-ninth Pallava period in South Indian sculpture.

The Schlesinger Collection
A highlight in the modern Indian section of the sale is a group of fine, early modern paintings from the collection of Emmanuel Schlesinger. A European émigré who arrived in Bombay in 1939, Schlesinger lived there until his death in 1968, befriending and mentoring the first generation of artists in post-Independence India. Among the artists represented in his collection was Tyeb Mehta, whose Untitled, (est. $100/150,000) 1959 canvas of a reclining nude is the star lot in the group. Other paintings from his collection that will be offered in the sale include MF Husain’s Tribal Girl (est. $40/60,000) and an Untitled canvas by NS Bendre (est. $40/60,000), depicting a woman at her toilette.

Indian Miniatures
The Indian miniatures in the sale are led by a group of paintings that were once in the collection of noted English peer John Lord Northwick (1770-1859) who built a renowned art collection during his lifetime. These works were reputedly acquired originally by Warren Hastings (1732-1818), the first Governor General of India. From the Northwick stable, these works passed into the care of noted Philadelphia collector Boies Penrose II (1902-1976) in the early 20th century. The upcoming Sotheby’s sale presents these works to a collecting audience after almost a century. The highlight of the group is a late 18th/ early 19th century painting depicting the Safavid Emperor Shah Abbas receiving the Mughal mission at Isfahan (est. $20/30,000).

Sikh Art
The highlight of the Sikh works in the sale is a Portrait of the Sikh Guru Nanak ji (est. $40/60,000) by Arjan Singh. The impressive and large oil on canvas from 1937 depicts the first Sikh guru.

Bengal School Works
The sale includes a selection of works by masters of the Bengal school who pioneered an indigenous Indianbred modernism in the early 20th century. Culled from private collections in the US, Canada, UK and Europe, and with impeccable provenance, the auction presents a unique opportunity to collectors to acquire works by these National Heritage artists.

Featured in this section are Day’s End (est. $6/8,000), a watercolor and ink work by Nandalal Bose that captures the timelessness of the Bengal countryside; Dumb Efforts and a Desperate Appeal to Emptiness (est. $20/30,000) a 1939 ink on paper by poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore, gifted to noted Indophile Alice Boner, depicting a shadowy landscape created with his trademark intense line strokes, bearing four lines of poetry on the verso; and The Sleepless City (est. $10/15,000, left) a smoky, impressionistic rendering of a riverbank with boats and a city fading in the distance by Gaganendranath Tagore that was entered for the Governor’s Prize in the Bengal Arts Exhibition of 1915.

Sotheby's | Indian and South East Asian Art | Manjit Bawa |

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