Motichand Khajanchi’s Legacy of Rajasthani Miniatures

The history of collecting classical Indian art in modern India is full of remarkable personalities. Karl Khandalavala, chairman of the Prince of Wales Museum (now the CSMVS Museum) from 1958-1995, was one of the most influential scholars in the field. He advised several early collectors, including Colonel R K Tandan and Khorshed Kharanjavala. In 2015, Saffronart auctioned a selection of miniatures and sculptures from their collections. The auction’s success, and the record prices it achieved point to a growing interest in acquiring quality works that represent a centuries-old tradition. In its upcoming sale, Saffronart presents yet another exemplary selection of miniature paintings from the collection of Motichand Khajanchi.

Motichand Khajanchi collected some of the finest miniatures in Rajasthan.

Motichand Khajanchi collected some of the finest miniatures in Rajasthan.

Motichand Khajanchi was born into a family of jewellers, whose patrons included the royal family of Bikaner. Following his father into the family business, Khajanchi travelled across the country and encountered diverse artistic traditions. He began collecting his first miniature paintings aged 15. The paintings he sought out, often buying them at locally held auctions, were also among the finest he collected. He spent heavily on them, often landing in trouble with his father in his early years, but also earned the friendship of artists and scholars who influenced him.

As Khajanchi’s collection grew, he was recognised as an authority on Rajasthani miniatures. He pored over old handwritten manuscripts that deepened his understanding of the literary and religious references in the paintings. When Rai Krishnadasa, a renowned art historian and the founder of Bharat Kala Bhawan in Varanasi visited Khajanchi, he was impressed with the quality of his collection. Krishnadasa suggested that Khajanchi lend some of his works to be displayed in a museum to benefit and educate the public. A selection of important works from Khajanchi’s collection, curated by Krishnadasa and Karl Khandalavala, was exhibited at the Lalit Kala Akademi in New Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta in 1960, and published in the accompanying catalogue. Some remain in the collection of the National Museum, New Delhi.

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Saffronart’s upcoming Classical Indian Art Auction features some of the most exquisite Rajasthani miniatures from Khajanchi’s collection. They include paintings from Bikaner, Mewar, Jaipur, Bundi, Kishangarh and Jodhpur.

Some of the paintings carry artist signatures on the reverse, and a few are from the personal collection of the Royal Family of Bikaner, making them all the more covetable.

Saffronart’s live auction of Classical Indian Art is on 9 March 2017 at the Saffronart gallery in Mumbai. It is preceded by viewings from 3 – 9 March 2017.

The Usual Jewellery/Silver Suspects

Eavesdropping. Prying on intimate matters. Insubordination to prevailing trends. Wooing money and hearts. And it goes on. Having maintained a low profile for decades, these pieces have suddenly emerged from their lairs and are now under trial on auction  at Saffronart. Rashmi rounds up nine of the important ones from the upcoming Online Auction of Fine Jewels and Silver

1. This Stunning Edwardian Brooch: For Rebelling and Subversion

Estimate: Rs 55,00,000 – 75,00,000

Lot 27: An Important Diamond Brooch

Lot 27: An Important Diamond Brooch

There’s no denying that the central diamond draws you to itself with brutal, hypnotic force.  And look at all those delicately designed full-cut diamonds pandering to its ego. With an air of old-world pride, the brooch reveals it’s nearly a hundred years old. “A true iconoclast,” it beams, referring to King Edward VII who, breaking free from his mother Queen Victoria’s influence, set a new path for fashion from 1901 onwards. Sure, its brethren are just like it—elegant, feminine, intricate—but this one is special, especially since it’s been in the care of an important Parsi family here in Mumbai.

  1. This Period Coin Necklace: For Its Double Identity

Estimate: Rs 10,50,000 – 12,50,000

Lot 3: A Period ‘Kasu Malai’ or Coin Necklace

Lot 3: A Period ‘Kasu Malai’ or Coin Necklace

Seated smugly under the interrogation light, it shrugs and tinkles—it’s adapted over the centuries and picked up our ways. It’s being vague about why it’s called what it is: a Kasu Malai. I assume it’s the Tamil words for ‘coin’ and ‘necklace’. “It could be, but it also could be something else,” it hints rather cryptically. “I’ve been told I’m named after a certain Sanar Kasu.” When asked who this person was, “Some tavern keeper from the Chola days who hoarded too much gold and landed in trouble for it.” How serious was it? “Got the death sentence. Apparently his last wish was that he wanted all pure gold coins to be named after him—the narcissist.”

It doesn’t end there. The malai‘s (literal) two-facedness reveals a script and a seated Balakrishna decked with cabochon rubies, making it a potent candidate.

Edit: Similar coins, showing a seated Balakrishna and a Devanagari inscription on the reverse, date back to the time of king Krishna Devaraya from the 16th century, and were known as gadyanas.

  1. This Set of Pacheli Bangles and Diamond Choker: For Monopolising a Rare Enamel

Estimates: Rs. 6,00,000 – 8,00,000 for each lot

Lots 20 and 21: A Pair of ‘Polki’ Diamond and Enamelled Pacheli Bangles and A Period ‘Polki’ Choker

Lots 20 and 21: A Pair of ‘Polki’ Diamond and Enamelled Pacheli Bangles and A Period ‘Polki’ Diamond Choker

Lot 20: A Pair of ‘Polki’ Diamond and Enamelled Pacheli Bangles

Lot 20: A Pair of ‘Polki’ Diamond and Enamelled Pacheli Bangles

Lot 21: Reverse

Lot 21: Close up of the reverse of A Period ‘Polki’ Diamond Choker

We’ve got a lot to thank the Persians for, and somewhere in that long list is the technique of enamelling. Among all the luscious shades on view is the famed Gulabi minakari or pink enamelling from Varanasi. A layer of pink paint is applied over an opaque white background, and what you most commonly see is flower buds. Just like you do over here. Pink enamelling has almost dwindled out of use now. So your chances of stumbling upon jewellery with Varanasi mina are very, very slim. These bangles and choker are part of the privileged few that get to show off their gorgeous pink enamelling. And also for the next reason….

  1. This Set of Bangles, Necklaces, Ring and Earrings: For Being Privy to Family/Political Secrets

Estimates:
Lot 20 – Rs. 6,00,000 – 8,00,000
Lot 21 – Rs. 6,00,000 – 8,00,000
Lot 22 – Rs 10,00,000 – 12,00,000
Lot 23 – Rs 1,00,000 – 1,50,000
Lot 24 – Rs 5,00,000 – 7,00,000
Lot 25 – Rs 4,00,000 – 6,00,000

Lot 22: An Impressive Pair Of Period Gemset Bracelets

Lot 22: An Impressive Pair Of Period Gemset Bracelets

Lot 23: A Period 'Thewa' Ring

Lot 23: A Period ‘Thewa’ Ring

Lot 24: A Period 'Polki' Diamond Necklace

Lot 24: A Period ‘Polki’ Diamond Necklace

Lot 25: A Pair Of Diamond 'Polki' Ear Pendants

Lot 25: A Pair Of Diamond ‘Polki’ Ear Pendants

They come from the family of one of Ahmedabad’s most influential businessmen…*drumroll*…Seth Mangaldas Girdhardas. Back in the day (sometime in the early 20th century), he oversaw a cluster of mills, was a staunch supporter of Gandhi, and founded a school for deaf and dumb children. Having been with a descendant of the Sheth, they certainly have a lot of stories to share…which they obviously won’t.

  1. This Burmese Silver Box: For Being Unabashedly Opulent in Depicting Mythology

Estimate: Rs 1,75,000 – 2,75,000

Lot 57: A Period Silver Box

Lot 57: A Period Silver Box

You’re wondering why scenes of the Ramayan swarm its cartouches. The Burmese depict their Ramayan scenes with about the same amount of flamboyance we do, but with a Thai twist to them. You spot the headdresses and see what I’m talking about. Not too long ago (1760, to be precise), Alaungpaya, a Burmese king, invaded Siam—or Thailand, as we know it—and brought back families of silversmiths to work for him. This seeped into the designs you see on the box.

….And the list of suspects goes on. Want to see them in person? Drop by our gallery between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm till October 14 (except Sunday).

Folk And Tribal Arts of India: Part 1

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart introduces the indigenous art forms of Patachitra and Jogi Art alongside illustrated lots from Storyltd’s upcoming auction of tribal and folk art

NEW YORK: On September 24th StoryLTD’s newest Absolute Auction of Folk and Tribal Art will go live with an eclectic collection of indigenous art works depicting a vast array of artistic traditions from different regions of India. These techniques represent longstanding regional narrative and customs with colourful hues, varying textures and elaborate compositions. Two techniques represented in this sale include the multi-dimensional storytelling tradition of Patachitra scroll paintings and the family rooted Jogi art.

Patachitra, originating in the Eastern Indian state of Odisha, is essentially an ornate cloth-based scroll painting. Although these colourful works have organic and humble roots they offer a wealth of narrative possibilities. “Patta” means “cloth” in Sanskrit while “chitra” means picture or painting. True to the name, layers of cotton cloth are adhered together with a natural glue product and formed into scrolls. Patachitras made of lighter paper materials are sometimes reinforced with saris to extend their life. It is essential that these scrolls remain intact as they are exhibited by traditional story tellers that travel distances and use these scrolls in their performances. The subject is often based on Ramayana or regional folklore and mythology. However, they also sometimes contain narratives from Muslim and Sufi traditions. Traditionally crafted by travelling bards, each scroll was accompanied by a song. Thus each Patachitra was experienced as a multidimensional piece, with a narrative conveyed in both visuals and music. The tradition of Patachitras continues and contemporary scrolls often convey current events or pivotal moments in recent history.

Lot 86, Jabbar Chitrakar and Unknown artist, Bengal Scroll https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=86

Lot 86, Jabbar Chitrakar and Unknown artist, Bengal Scroll https://www.storyltd.com/auction/item.aspx?eid=3741&lotno=86

A fitting example of these Bengal scrolls can be seen in Lot 85 and 86 in the Absolute Auction of Folk and Tribal Art by Jabbar Chitrakar and Yamuna Chitrakar. These colourful works are made from natural pigments and shows two narratives simultaneously. The title Chitrakar, literally meaning painter, is taken on by the performers. Not formally trained in the art of painting, these chitrakars learn the traditional skills in a local setting, becoming travelling showmen who are adept in more ways in one, donning multiple roles- painters, singers, performers, storytellers.

Much like the scroll paintings of Bengal, Jogi Art has an interesting history. Ganesh Jogi, the namesake of this artistic form, performed as a musician in Rajasthan. Following the traditional professional associated with the Jogi caste, the family would wander the streets in the early hours of the morning, singing devotional songs and receiving grains, clothes and occasionally money from people. Due to changing times they had to move to the neighbouring state of Gujrat to seek a livelihood. A chance encounter with the eminent artist and anthropologist in the 1980s laid roots for the blossoming of this visual art form. Shah encouraged Ganesh and his wife Teju to draw from their hearts and imagination images that inhabit their world. Over time these illustrations became detailed and complex, a true visual delight. The current lots showcasing Jogi Art present the evolutionary and transformative potential of traditional artistic practices. They present varied themes that include village life, current events and contemporary discourses like environmentalism.

StoryLTD’s upcoming auction of folk and tribal art presents an opportunity to partake in India’s traditional visual practices, the range of artworks included in the sale are sure to peak one’s curiosity about the indigenous art genres existing in the different regions of the subcontinent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you see a painting and don’t know what it is, you look…

Behind the Picture

If you were in our gallery earlier this month, ambling about with an all-knowing smile plastered across your face to mask the “Hmm, this is interesting, but I don’t get it and the catalogue is a bit dense to bother reading” tumult your mind was going through, this is it. Starting today, we’re picking some of the most exciting lots from our upcoming live auction and giving you crisp, palatable snippets about them. Perhaps now you’ll reach out to them and invite them for a chat over tea and biscuits.

But we know it’s all subjective, and you have your favourites. Don’t see them here? Leave a Facebook comment or write to us, and we’ll try to cover a few more—succintly—on our blog.

We’ll be updating this space with all posts in the series, so be sure not to miss out on any!

1. A possible drive down the French countryside would yield this….if you were in the 1950s…and if you were S.H. Raza

2. Imagine a very important religious subject. Now go back a thousand years or so, and think of a thousand ways of portraying three figures and a donkey. Ran out of options at #999? Not if you’re Jehangir Sabavala.

 

“There has been no conscious effort to preserve Indian film collectibles”

Film critic, screenwriter and editor Khalid Mohamed speaks candidly with Rashmi Rajgopal about the sorry state of Indian film memorabilia.

Khalid Mohamed.  Credits: oneshotoneplace.com/

Khalid Mohamed
Credit: oneshotoneplace.com

Unlike paintings, film memorabilia seldom receive their due. Everyone knows this, and everyone wants to do something about it, but it’s always the authorities who get pointed at for not doing enough. Three weeks ago, I’d written to two collectors who’d very generously agreed to share their story on sourcing Indian film collectibles with me. When asked why they’d decided to auction their collection, their reply left me unconvinced: “…film memorabilia have immense potential…we would like to create an appreciation for this art form which is one of its kind.” I was hoping to know how they felt about auctioning their collection, and whether they were hopeful it would be received well. They’d clearly spent a lot of time and energy sourcing items from cities across India. There had to be more to this explanation.

So I ruminated on what they’d said. It sounded obvious, yes, but what kinds of stories lurked beneath the surface of the potential of Indian film memorabilia? I called Khalid Mohamed with a few hastily compiled questions on abandoned originals: posters and other publicity material brought out by the production companies at the time the film was first released. Many producers still retained these, but others were indeed left lying around, decaying with time. “The Grant Road and Chor Bazaar markets used to have a good collection of film posters”—whether originals or copies wasn’t clear—“but those are now gone.”

When it comes to government efforts to preserve something significant, we know how it turns out. Any indifference on their part is no news. “Originals by far are very few, and very badly archived,” Khalid explained, quite matter-of-factly. “Obviously at the time not many knew they would mean so much, so there was no conscious effort to preserve them.” Exceptions would be the National Film Archive of India and the Films Division. The latter’s website features an appeal from the government to donate films, manuscripts, equipment and artefacts to the National Museum for Indian Cinema, which opened in Mumbai this February.

Set of 8 lobby cards from Mughal-e-Azam.  Available till 26 June on StoryLTD.

Set of 8 lobby cards from the Mughal-e-Azam collection
Available till 26 June on StoryLTD

“What about the artists who worked on posters and lobby cards? Didn’t they do anything to retrieve their artwork?”

“Why would they? It’s a question of earning a living,” he replied.

Though Khalid tackled my questions convincingly, I sensed a cynicism in his voice as he spoke—the kind that comes through dealing with and resisting an indifference to conserving these originals, and knowing that any efforts would have been the bare minimal, and finally resigning to it. “There just hasn’t been a consciousness in preserving film posters,” he said with a tinge of bitterness. A market demand would surely compel a more conscientious approach to preserving what’s remaining of these originals—the thought came easily to me, but he countered it. “How would you define the market?”

The market, he argues, is unstructured and vague. People want film posters, but it cannot be pinned to any specific demographic. “After Hollywood started selling film memorabilia, we followed in their tracks.” While acknowledging a base of collectors, he believes it’s still a highly niche demand. Certain collectibles hold more allure than others. “Posters of Guide and Mughal-e-Azam are still extremely popular.” The interest is mainly driven by fondness and nostalgia. Khalid is right to an extent; fondness and nostalgia do lie at the base, but perhaps it’s also fuelled by a serious interest in film memorabilia as an art form. Of course, from a sales perspective, this kind of cultural validation holds more appeal over a primal human desire to possess something that evokes a bygone age. It’s almost impossible to uncover true motives, but it is a possibility.

So the best bet to find well-preserved originals would be with directors, film producers, actors, and others in the business who’ve sought out these posters. One would even get lucky at certain theatres. “If you go to Liberty Cinema, you would find a beautiful hand-painted poster of Awara,” he said, while adding other names. “Rishi Kapoor, Raj Kapoor…they had conserved many posters.”

 

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