Less than three months after the Basohli painting Ragamala: Ragaputra Chandrakaya of Malkosa fetched Rs 93.25 lakh at the fourth Christie’s India auction in Mumbai, the metropolis will see 81 lots of miniature paintings and rare sculptures come under the hammer. On March 9, Saffronart will host an auction solely dedicated to this segment. “There is a lot of scope in the classical Indian art segment, which has been underrated and undervalued for years,” says Hugo Weihe, CEO of Saffronart.
The talking point is the collection of Motichand Khajanchi, a Bikaner jeweller who amassed a fine collection of Rajasthani miniatures in India in the ’40s. At 15, he reportedly made his first purchase, and subsequently spent thousands on paintings. Poring over manuscripts, he learned how to read the works. He also purchased some of these from the personal collection of the Maharaja of Bikaner.
The forthcoming auction features 36 works from the collection. “The lots from the late 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries are in excellent condition. Some of them carry artist signatures on the reverse, which is rare among miniature paintings,” notes Weihe.
Estimated to fetch the highest bid from the Khajanchi collection, Rs 50-70 lakh, is gouache on paper Maharaja Bakhat Singh of Nagaur Proceeding for Battle. The intricately painted battle scene has the ruler seated on a royal horse leading a battle formation with soldiers and the cavalry on a hillock.
Another work from the Khajanchi collection, Ragini of Raga Sri, dated circa 1660, has Krishna seated before platters of colour, being entertained by musicians. The provincial Mughal/Bikaner painting is expected to fetch Rs 35 lakh- 45 lakh.
Leading the sale of sculptures, meanwhile, is a sandstone sculpture of Mahishasuramardini, depicting Durga’s victory over the demon Mahishasur. The 10-11th century work from a family collection is estimated at Rs 3-5 crores.
“In the west, the prices have reached up to five million dollars, so these are priced very correctly,” says Weihe.