NEW DELHI: A painting of a Great Indian fruit bat, also known as the flying fox, sold for over Rs 4.6 crore at a Bonhams Islamic and Indian Art auction in London, which raked in total sales of 4.5 million pounds.
The pen and ink watercolour by artist Bhawani Das sourced from the Kolkata collection of Lady Impey sold for four times higher than its estimated price on April 8, auctioneers said Wednesday.
The painting of the mammal, also known as the flying fox (Pteropus giganteus) with its 1.5 meter wingspan on English watermarked paper, has gone to a private collection, said Claire Penhallurick, Head of Islamic and Indian Art at Bonhams.
“The sale had performed strongly across all the sectors represented but that Indian miniatures had done particularly well,” she said.
Sir Elijah Impey, the East India Company’s Chief Justice of Bengal from 1774 to 1782 was a noted patron of Indian artists. However his wife, Mary, Lady Impey, who joined him in Kolkata in 1777, was particularly interested in the flora and fauna of the surrounding area, creating her own menagerie.
“She then commissioned studies of animals and plants from various artists from the nearby city of Patna, the most senior of whom were the Shaykh Zayn-al-Din, and the Ram Das and Bhawani Das, the painter of the present lot,” the auctioneers said.
The precision of these artists’ technique, which stemmed from the Mughal tradition, appealed to British patrons, and the technique and the subject-matter have become known as ‘Company School’.
There were 326 works in the original series commissioned by Lady Impey which were brought back to England with the Impeys in 1783, and were sold at Phillips (now Bonhams) in London in 1810.
Two miniature paintings also fetched good sales.
Firdausi Shahnama (The book of Kings) lavishly illustrates with 110 miniatures, copied by the scribe Nizam-Ad-din, formerly in the library of the last Nawab of Bengal, North India, probably Kashmir and dated November 11 AD 1828 sold for over Rs one crore.
The second, a rare copy of Abu’l Fazl Bin Mubarak’s Akbarnama (The Book of Akbar) Books I, II and III, illustrated with 65 miniatures and probably once in collection of Nathaniel Middleton, an East India company resident at Lucknow probably Murshidabad sold for Rs 10,138,503.
The auction also included a wide range of traditional Islamic art, early pottery and metalwork, Arabic and Persian manuscripts, Ottoman and Turkish art, Safavid and Qajar art, Mughal and other works of Indian art, Modern and Contemporary South Asian art and Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern art.