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  • Indian and Southeast Asian Art at Sotheby's
    March 1, 2005 NEW YORK.

    circa 2nd Century Gandharan figure of a Royal Donor (est. $200/300,000).

    Sotheby's spring 2005 sale of Indian and Southeast Asian art will be held on April 1, 2005. The upcoming sale features a very strong section of Himalayan art, highlighted by a graceful 17th/18th Century Mongolian gilt copper sculpture of Maitreya from the School of Zanabazar (est. $250,000/350,000). Other works on offer are an outstanding circa 600 CE northwestern Indian copper alloy sculpture of the goddess Prajnaparamita or Saraswati (est. $400/600,000) and a stunning circa 9th Century Nepalese gilt copper figure of Maitreya (est. $300/500,000). Also notable are a monumental circa 2nd Century Gandharan statue of a Royal Donor, (est. $200/300,000) and an elegant 18th Century Indian ivory-handled crutch dagger (est. $20/30,000). The paintings section features a selection of Indian miniatures from the Punjab Hills and 59 lots of Modern Indian works, including canvases by leading artists of the Progressive group such as M. F. Husain, F. N. Souza and K. H. Ara as well as works by S. H. Raza, Jehangir Sabavala and Krishen Khanna. Property from the spring sale will be on exhibition in Sotheby's 6th floor galleries from March 24th-31st and is expected to bring $4.2/6.1 million.

    The exceptionally rare early 7th Century image of the Goddess Prajnaparamita or Saraswati (est. $400/600,000) is among the earliest known sculptures from the Gilgit region in Northwestern India. The work has been dated to circa 600-650 CE from the inscription on its base, which identifies its donor Queen Mangalahasirika of the Palola Shahi dynasty. The regal portrait of the Goddess attired in a fitted bodice, long dress and flowing scarf and adorned in sumptuous jewelry and an ornate crown is unprecedented for its realistic observation of details. The inscribed manuscript held in her left hand tentatively translated as nama(h) prajnaparamitaya suggests that the sculpture is one of the earliest representations of the Buddhist deity Prajnaparamita or the Brahmanical goddess of learning Saraswati. The polychromed hair indicates that the image was preserved in a Tibetan sanctuary and thereby saved the degrading effects of burial.

    The exquisite circa 9th Century Nepalese sculpture of Maitreya (est. $300,000/500,000) depicts the Buddha of the Future standing with his right hand held in abhaya mudra, the fear dispelling gesture, attired in a patterned dhoti and sash and ornamented in elaborate foliate jewelry and a trilobate crown. The perfectly proportioned form and finely rendered details epitomize the restrained elegance of Licchavi period (circa 400-879 CE) metal sculpture of Nepal. The work is identified as Maitreya by means of its striking coiffure of coiled locks referring to the deity's ascetic nature. The elegant 17th/18th Century Mongolian image of Maitreya from the School of Zanabazar (est. $250/350,000), named after its founder the great Mongolian sculptor and religious hierarch Zanabazar, displays vestiges of Nepalese Licchavi period ideals in its sensuous from and graceful movement. Zanabazar is reputed to have introduced the cult of Maitreya in Mongolia after his travels in Tibet and was said to have been inspired by the early Nepalese and eastern Indian images that were revered in the Tibetan monasteries that he had visited. Maitreya's face with its aquiline nose and protruding lower lip is modeled after the Classical Gupta style of northeastern India.

    The imposing circa 2nd Century Gandharan figure of a Royal Donor (est. $200/300,000) depicts a haloed princely figure bearing offerings in his hands, clad in the distinctive royal attire of the Kushan rulers of ancient northwestern India. Elements of the costume consisting of a peaked conical hat and a belted tunic worn over trousers tucked into boots point to the central Asian origins of the Kushans. With its taut frontal stance and imperious expression, the figure radiates power and authority and is amongst a rare handful of portrait sculptures from the period to have survived intact.

    A highlight in the Indian decorative arts section is a finely carved 18th Century crutch dagger or Gupti (est. $20/30,000) with a concave ivory handle terminating in lion heads and a steel blade with a floral motif at the forte. The quality of carving and inlay indicates a Mughal provenance for the work and the stylized treatment of the lion heads pointing to a slightly later date within this period. The selection of Indian miniatures offered in the sale includes works from European and American private collections that have not been seen on the market for decades. Featured in this section is an exquisite circa 1810 illustration of Ganesha and his consort from Kangra or Mandi (est. $25/30,000) attributed to the School of the master artist Sajnu. The delicately shaded coloring, crisp facial features, extensive use of white and inclusion of ornate architectural devices in the composition are hallmarks of Sajnu's atelier. Also included in this section are two circa 1700 illustrations to the 'Shangri' Ramayana from Kulu or Bahu (est. $8/12,000 each) executed in the bold vivid palette characteristic of this school.

    Notable works in the Modern Indian paintings section by M. F. Husain, F. N. Souza, and S. H. Raza will also be offered. Shatranj ki Khiladi (est. $90/120,000) by M. F. Husain, inspired by the movie directed by Satyajit Ray, depicts two chess players engaged in their game set against a backdrop of diminutive British and Indian soldiers, echoing the political games played by the British in mid-19th Century India. The canvas belongs to a well-known series inspired by the films of Ray and is representative of Husain's fundamental fascination with the medium of cinema. F. N. Souza's Rome (est. $40/60,000) is executed in the characteristic style of his early canvases with thick black outlines and geometric shapes resembling stained glass windows, suggestive of Catholic altarpieces.

    Refuge by S. H. Raza (pictured on page 4, est. $15/20,000) marks a watershed in Raza's career when he began experimenting with abstraction under the influence of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, whose works he was exposed to during his tenure as a teacher at the University of California Art School in the summer of 1962. The hot vibrant colors are reminiscent of the rich palette of Indian miniature paintings, and the exploratory unstructured composition recalls the kaleidoscopic sensations of India itself merging, diverging and reassembling in an ever changing landscape. Also on offer are works on paper by other senior artists such as Ram Kumar, V. S. Gaitonde, Jagdish Swaminathan, Sunil Das and K. G. Subramanyan as well as more contemporary works by younger artists such as Nalini Malani, Chittrovanu Mazumdar and Neeraj Goswami.

    This is the department's third auction under the leadership of Robin Dean, following two successful sales in 2004, which realized world record auction prices in both the antiquities and modern paintings categories and an annual sale total of over $6 million.

    For More Information, Please Contact the Press Office at 212 606 7176