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Important Indian paintings to feature at Bonhams' Asia Week sale on September 17
Selected from the Barbara Janeff Collection of Indian Painting, the miniatures are among the sale’s highly anticipated highlights. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- Centuries-old Rajasthani and Pahari miniature paintings will be placed on the auction block for the first time as part of the Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art sale on September 17 at Bonhams, the third largest international fine art auction house.

Selected from the Barbara Janeff Collection of Indian Painting, the miniatures are among the sale’s highly anticipated highlights. The group features products of distinguished Indian schools of painting which flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Barbara Janeff was captivated by India after seeing James Ivory’s film “The Sword and the Flute” in 1972. She immediately became a regular visitor at the R. E. Lewis Gallery in San Francisco where James Ivory, who was also an art collector, had bought many works by Indian artists. Janeff worked at the Charles Campbell Gallery (later the Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery) in San Francisco during the 1980s and 1990s, sharing her passion for Indian miniatures with the gallery’s artists Theo Brown, Paul Wonner and Richard Diebenkorn.

Barbara Janeff acquired many of these miniatures directly from Theo Brown and Paul Wonner (who later became noted Bay Area collectors) which were first exhibited by renowned scholar on ancient Indian art Dr. Pratapaditya Pal at the Newport Harbour Museum in California in 1975.

The collection has been the subject of academic and artistic interest for an exhibition entitled “Divine Visions, Worldly Lovers: Highlighting Indian Painting from the Barbara Janeff Collection,” held in 2007 at the Bolinas Museum in Calif., and again in 2008 at Mills College Art Museum in Calif. The shows were curated and published by noted Indian art scholar Robert J. Del Bontà.

One of the highlights is a folio from the celebrated Nurpur Rasamanjari series created by Golu — one of the distinguished Masters of Nurpur — which dates back to 1715 and is estimated at $30,000-$50,000. The painting depicts two women engaged in discourse, set against a white backdrop of the palace wall, the starkness of which is offset by a field of green. The assertive division of color evokes the emerging style of 20th century painters in Europe and the United States, and, when it was a part of Brown and Wonner’s collection, the painting was reputed to be Richard Diebenkorn’s favorite miniature.

A high point of this collection is another miniature, circa 1820, and estimated at $30,000-$50,000, whose richly shaded and evocative composition is of a female ascetic visiting a Shiva shrine at night. The painting, attributed to the celebrated Devgarh artist, Chokha, shows her wrapped in a flowing, diaphanous garment, striding purposefully into the dark to worship.

Another miniature, estimated at $10,000-$15,000, is a mid-18th century painting from the Mandi School which documents one of the most curious court dynamics in the Punjab Hills. King Shamsher Sen (r. 1727-81), is known to have been an ineffectual ruler with morally questionable court advisors. Amongst them, his half- brother Dhurchatia, from whom Shamsher had won the throne in a childhood contest, went on to become his closest advisor with the intention of wielding great power over the court. The painting portrays a perhaps illusory scene with Durchatia paying obeisance to King Shamsher Sen at a palace door.

The sale will also feature two masterpieces by the celebrated Indian artist V.S. Gaitonde, Islamic Art from the Rafi Y. Mottahedeh Collection and a strong group of Himalayan sculpture and paintings.

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