Sotheby’s offers Indian colonial art at its sale news

November 27th, 2008 - 6:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/London, Nov 27 (IANS) Global art auctioneer Sotheby’s will showcase a slice of the 18th century colonial Indian heritage at its forthcoming sale of Early British Drawings, Watercolours and Water Miniatures Dec 4. Spread in two lots, the first set of company art - the genre of art that flourished under the British East India Company in India - comprises four exceptionally rare watercolours by India-born artist, Shaikh Zayn-al-Din, estimated at 40,000-60,000 pounds, a press release from London said Thursday.

The drawings of birds in their natural habitat are titled “A Pied Push Cat Perched on a Bassia Tree”, “Young Sunbird perched on a Reinwardtia Trigina”, “A Chinese Hwamei Perched on a Bridelia” and a “Red Breasted Flycatcher on a Alutilon Indicum”.

They are part of 326 paintings that were made by Sheikh Zayn-al-Din and his contemporaries.

Zayn-al-Din worked for the Calcutta-based English Lord Elijah, the chief justice of Bengal between 1774-1782, and his wife Lady Impey.

The couple commissioned him to paint rare birds, animals, flora and fauna from the sub-continent that fascinated them.

On their return to Britain in 1783, the Impeys showed their collection of paintings to ornithologists, who were quick to point to its scientific and artistic merits.

The drawings, titled the Impey’s Natural History Drawings, were known to include some of the earliest depictions of Indian bird species. Shaikh Zayn-al-Din was a native of Patna, the capital of modern-day Bihar, nearly 480 km north of Kolkata.

He trained as a Persian court painter in the naturalistic Mughal tradition. He moved to Kolkata in 1774.

The second India-related highlight is a rare watercolour of “The Rope Bridge” in Srinagar in the Garhwal district of Uttaranchal by the British artist Thomas Daniell. It is estimated at 20,000-30,000 pounds.

Thomas Daniell travelled extensively throughout India between 1785-1793 and produced the watercolour of the ‘Rope Bridge’ after witnessing the siege of Srinagar, a north Indian princely state, in Garhwal on April 28, 1789.

The artist’s nephew, also a fellow artist, noted in his diary on the day of the siege that “in consequence of the aforesaid news, the inhabitants of Srinagar were crossing the river as quickly as possible. They crowded on the bridge so fast that we thought at times, it would have broken.”

According officials at Sotheby’s, Daniell painted three compositions in oil on the same themes and one is on permanent display at the Victoria Memorial Museum in Kolkata. It dates back to 1791.

Another painting, dated 1800, is exhibited at the Yale Centre in New Haven, and the third is at the India Office Library and Records in London. It dates back to 1808.

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