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 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.
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.