ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 21 – Classical, Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

Indian Miniature Painting – Maharao Ram Singh Killing a Buffalo – Kota, c.1830-40 – opaque pigments and gold on paper – 15.5 x 24.5 cm (painting)

Part of the upcoming online auction of South Asian Art are miniature paintings from the Indian subcontinent, showcasing different schools of classical paintings from 17th to 19th century. This one in particular uses opaque pigments and gold on paper, a medium unique in classical Indian miniature painting. 

Maharao Ram Singh of Kota (r. 1827-66) is one of the best represented of Rajput rulers with many aspects of his life both public and personal documented by his artists. He is represented in durbars with his court and with British officials, in the many festivals of the Hindu calendar, including Dussehra as here, the Asapura festival (Kreisel 1995, fig. 132), and the riotous spring festival of Holi (Topsfield 1980, pl. 7), as well as personal worship of the deities (Seyller 2015, no. 60) , and of course many scenes of personal interest such as riding an elephant on top of the chajja of a pavilion in 1853 (Ehnbom1985, no. 64), playing polo with his noblemen (Welch 1997, no 63), entering Delhi in 1842 (ibid., no. 65), and scenes of him enjoying himself with his women (Seyller 2015, no. 61). Here, he is celebrating the autumnal Dussehra festival, commemorating the slaying of the buffalo-headed demon Mahishasura by the Devi, by hunting and killing a buffalo in a ritual slaying. Other pictures suggest that this was not a solitary affair but was a communal ceremony undertaken with his nobles (Kreisel ed. 1995, fig. 133).

In our splendidly energetic painting, the Maharao is gorgeously apparelled in helmet and body armour, with room of course for jewels, over a lilac jama. He carries a small shield in his left hand which holds the reins, while an empty scabbard is by his side, the sword being used to slice at the neck of the buffalo, which is falling to the ground behind the horse. The horse is even more gorgeously caparisoned than the Maharao, with its tasselled mane, jewelled bridle and many chains with attached gold plates. Two attendants run beside on foot, one with a khanda sword and a chowrie, and the other with a sun-burst parasol. The latter may also be carrying an upright spear, unless it is attached to the horse in some way or held by an invisible attendant. The scene is set below a plain green hillside dotted with a few trees and with a walled garden near the summit of the hill.

The Maharao here appears relatively young, being without his full set of bushy sideburns that grew gradually over the course of his reign. He came to the throne at the age of 19 and one of his earliest datable portraits shows him about 25 (Bautze’s fig. 14 in Welch et al. 1997, p. 53), when his sideburns were already heavier than they are in our painting. His profile with its bulbous ending to the nose and protruding lips is instantly recognisable.

The horse rolls its eyes as the buffalo falls dying to the ground, its horns obtruding into the margin, but Ram Singh’s grave face is devoid of the pleasure of the hunt but rather intent on doing his ritual duty. A later and rather stiffer picture dated 1859 in the Mittal Museum in Hyderabad (Seyller ed. 2015, no. 63) shows the same ritual killing of the buffalo but with the Maharao using a spear rather than a sword, while a preliminary drawing for that painting is in the V&A Museum (Archer 1959, Kotah fig. 49).

Expert: J. P. Losty

Auction Catalogue-South Asian Art ‘Classical, Modern and Contemporary-March 23-27, 2017

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 10 – Classical, Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

Gandharan Sculpture – Buddha Head – 4th/5th century – North Pakistan – polychrome stucco – 23.5 x 13.5 x 16 cm. – Lot 10 

Featured in the Classical, Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art online auction on March 23-27, 2017 are sculptures from as early as 4th century such as this Buddha Head which is the oldest in the collection. 

This Buddha head reflects the typical Gandhara style with a clear hellenistic influence. The elongated earlobes only and the half-shut eyes show the Indian origin and taste.

The intensity of expression, the lengthened shape of eyes (that denote an oriental origin), the elongated earlobes, the circle (urna) in the middle of the forehead, the cranium protuberance (usnisa) are distinguishing characteristics of the Buddha. Furthermore, the sweet faraway look absorbed in deep meditation is typical of Buddhist art.

Face’s oval is perfect, eyebrows are gently arching, nose is straight. The face’s soft simplicity contrasts and points out the hair, which is treated according to an incisive cutting. Fineness of features is emphasized by the polychrome stucco.

The beautiful aesthetic quality of this head is a fine example of Gandharan stucco sculpture.

Expert: Renzo Freschi

Auction Catalogue-South Asian Art ‘Classical, Modern and Contemporary’-March 23-27, 2017

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 41 – Classical, Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

Maqbool Fida Husain – ‘Islam’ – 1992 – acrylic on canvas – 78 x 139 in. – Lot 41

ARTIANA’s upcoming online auction of Classical, Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art on March 23-27, 2017 highlights this distinct work of Maqbool Fida Husain. This painting is the most valuable lot in the upcoming sale, both in terms of price and history behind the artwork. 

‘Theorama’ is a ten panel series that was influenced by Husain’s past preoccupations with theosophy and his experiences as a billboard painter. Composed in the early 90s, Theorama tributes ten different faiths — highlighting what Husain sees as the finer aspects in each; these are strung together in the series to symbolise a sense of unity or a common thread. ‘Islam’ is Husain’s masterly depiction of the Muslim faith.

To the left is a Sufi saint with his finger of ‘Kalema e Shahadah’ raised. The black and majestic cube of Kaabah, inscribed with the Arabic ‘Kaaf’, is positioned at the heart of the image, emphasising its prominence in no uncertain terms. A circle beside the Kaabah represents the dome of the The Prophet’s mosque in Madinah and is inscribed with the alphabet ‘Meem’. ‘Al-buraq’, the lightning horse, gallops across the sky to the right while the ‘Al-Shaqqul Qamar’, the splitting moon — an Islamic symbol of the scientific temper — watches over. ‘Al-Loh-al-Mehfooz’, the book of Judgement Day, also sits prominently to the right.

This simple yet substantial homage to Islam is brought about through a keen use of colour and line. These, along with tasteful use of religious motifs and symbolism, assembled together with an intimacy and personal reverence, lends this painting the distinctness for which it is known.

Auction Catalogue-South Asian Art ‘Classical, Modern and Contemporary’-March 23-27, 2017

ARTIANA – Highlights – Lot 46 – Classical, Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art – Online Auction – No Buyer’s Premium

SH Raza – ‘Emergence’ – 1988 – acrylic on canvas – 31.5 x 31.5 in. – Lot 46

Syed Haider Raza’s ‘Emergence’, published on the cover and inside of ‘Raza’ by Alain Bonfand and the cover lot of our upcoming auction on March 23-27, 2017.

In his meditations on colour and their emotive qualities, Raza was taken back to his childhood. It was a voyage, so to speak, back to the moist and pregnant ground where experiences were naked and free from the shell of words. This apprehending of the ‘source’ — the point of emergence — is a spiritual element captured best in the Bindu. This is arguably why it has remained pivotal to Raza’s repertoire.

Drawing from Raza’s own words: “The point, the Bindu, symbolises the seed bearing the potential of all life, in a sense. It’s also a visible form containing all the essential requisites of line, tone, colour, gesture, and space.”

Since the 1970s, Raza began to visibly emphasise his Indian identity. This is evidenced in his frequent visits to India. His concepts and colours at the time were distinctly akin to Indian spiritual thought but their plasticity, however, remained their most striking quality. The Bindu figured prominently in his paintings in this period. It was a starting point that brought together geometry, colour, space and several aspects of Indian aesthetics. The circle, one recalls, is a figure within which every geometric shape can be featured.

The late 1970s witnessed a considerable change in his style of painting. He preferred basic geometric figures and the primary palette in his compositions. The Bindu was reinstated in ‘Emergence’ (1988) as the centre of his contemplations: a radiant circle emerging from within a square, flanked by distinct carves of bright colour. The Bindu is black but illumined — a sighting of the source in the silent minute of meditation.

Understanding Raza: Many ways of looking at a Master, Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, 2013, p. 52

Auction Catalogue-South Asian Art ‘Classical, Modern and Contemporary’-March 23-27, 2017