Lot 59
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32.75 in (83.2 cm) high


Sohrabji K Bhedwar Collection, by 1950
The Estate of Khorshed Karanjavala

Karl Khandalavala, "Masterpieces in South Indian and Nepalese Bronzes in the Collection of Mr. S.K. Bhedwar of Bombay", Marg, Vol IV, Issue No.4, Bombay: Marg Publications, 1950, p. 18, fig. 15 (illustrated)

The first half of the 20th century was a particularly enthusiastic time for collecting old art and artefacts in India. Between artists like the Tagore brothers and scholars like Ananda K Coomaraswamy and Karl Khandalavala, to the Tata and Jehangir families, there existed formidable collections that spoke of the legacy of India's ancient cultural wealth.

"The collectors themselves in retrospect were larger-than-life- figures who were well educated, belonged mostly to the affluent class and were motivated by a genuine interest in art as both precious heritage and for aesthetic pleasure rather than as instruments of investments or for social leverage. No matter what their personal occupation or financial means they seem to have been passionately interested in the art they collected... There were several other Parsi collectors during the twilight of the Raj, such as Burjor Treasurywalla, S.K. Bhedwar, R.S. Sethna and Boman Behram. Nothing is known as to why and when they began collecting Indian art." (Pal, Pursuit of the Past, p. 162)

One such remarkable collector was Sohrabji K Bhedwar, an architect in then Bombay, and a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA). S K Bhedwar is most famous for designing the grand Eros theatre, which first opened in February 1938. Resplendent in the popular Art Deco style of the 1930s, the theatre stands across the busy Churchgate station in downtown Mumbai. Little else is known about this elusive architect and collector.

Karl Khandalavala once wrote extensively on S K Bhedwar's collection of sculptures, which was built over a period of thirty years with careful discernment and vision. According to him, Bhedwar's collection of South Indian bronzes and Nepalese copper images, taken together as a group, "would surely form the best private collection of metal images in the country. ... In making the collection Mr. Bhedwar has not limited his choice to examples of aesthetic beauty. He has included several images which are important from an iconographic point of view and also other images whose appeal lies in their rarity and quaintness." (Khandalavala, Marg, 1950, p. 10)

Although Khandalavala does not explore Bhedwar's motivation behind collecting, or how he acquired the pieces in his collection, his essay analyses and speaks volumes about their remarkable quality. In his book Pursuit of the Past, Pratapaditya Pal's cites the famous Srinivas Gopalachari of Madras who was "a great purveyor of Chola material" (Pal, Pursuit of the Past, p. 147) as one of Bhedwar's major supplier of Chola bronzes. Bhedwar's collection began appearing in the market only after his passing in 1968. One of these was the 15th-16th century bronze Parvati of the Vijayanagar period (Lot 59).

"...I remember distinctly when some of the Bhedwar Collection came into the Western market. Three bronzes appeared with Spink & Son, London in the 1970s. As I was in London at the time I went to see them and was stunned by their extraordinary quality..." (Pal, Pursuit of the Past, p. 131)

John D Rockefeller III, the American philanthropist and trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation pursued the masterpieces in Bhedwar's collection and met with him on at least one of his visits to India from 1958 onwards. In 1971, he finally succeeded in acquiring the Gupta bronze figure of Buddha, widely acclaimed as the finest in existence. It now forms a centrepiece of the collection at The Asia Society in New York. Rockefeller's deep appreciation for Indian art led him to provide grants to leading Indian modernists that changed the course of their careers. Bhedwar's bronzes represent a shared passion and discernment for the greatest achievements of Indian bronze sculpture.

Once part of S K Bhedwar's extraordinary collection, the monumental 32 ?? inch tall bronze Parvati in the present lot was singled out for praise by Karl Khandalavala in his article "Masterpieces in South Indian and Nepalese Bronzes in the Collection of Mr. S.K. Bhedwar of Bombay", published in Marg magazine in 1950 (see fig. 15 in image) He points out the elegant simplicity of her classically Vijayanagar characteristics including the simplicity of her jewellery (see drawing), "... including the single, thin necklace... single thin armlet... and only two thin bracelets." (Khandalavala, Marg, 1950, p. 22)

The southern peninsula of India was ruled by the Vijayanagar dynasty from 1336 to 1565. A formidable power in the south, the Vijayanagar Empire's seat of power was in Karnataka and they maintained a stronghold against the advancing Mughals for nearly two centuries. The art from this period hardly deviated from the Chola style preceding it. "Thus, while Chola art is a direct offshoot of Tamil culture, the term Vijayanagar period denotes a political period rather than a stylistic attribution." (Pal, Pursuit of the Past, p. 230)

Artists of Vijayanagar continued to follow the Chola aesthetic of sculpting elegant forms, with restrained ornamentation or embellishment. Writing about the Parvati in the present lot, Khandalavala states that here are perceptible changes from the Chola form, as seen in the multitier crown, simple neck ornaments, the sharply pointed chin and the three rolls of flesh (trivali) above the abdomen. "The three incised lines seen just above the abdomen in our image are only present in images of the Vijayanagar period and thereafter... Though the bronzes of the Vijayanagar period tend to be mechanical, occasionally an image of aesthetic merit is encountered such as our Parvati" (Khandalavala, Marg, 1950, p. 22)

Commenting on another Vijayanagar period Parvati in the MET catalogue, India: Art and Culture 1300-1900, the scholar and distinguished collector, Stuart Cary Welch, expands eloquently on the concept of the Parvati: "... this is a powerful and movingly feminine envisionment of Shiva's consort Parvati, who represents generic woman - shakti, the tangible and noblest form of cosmic divine power - and is the benign aspect of Kali. Although as a tool for meditation (dhyana) the goddess could have been represented in other worshipful forms she is embodied here as a stunning figurative image, a pratima. A devotee who is sufficiently pure in heart and able to take power from within can through the image's suprasensual beauty achieve the goal of worship: Samadhi, or the merging of the perceiver with the perceived. At a yet higher spiritual level, this union of the divided divine can be affected without the image by envisioning it in the mind's (or soul's) eye." (Welch, Art and Culture, p. 27)

The leading scholar, Nagaswamy explains that bronze sculptures are solidly cast as an alloy of five metals."In the south: five metals were used, with copper being the base. These five metals, called panca lohas, were symbolically associated with the five basic elements, earth, water, fire, air, and ether. According to tradition, all physical bodies, including humans', are composed of these five elements in different proportions. The sacred metal image, being the body of the Divine on earth, is thus also made up of the five elements that are represented by the metals." (Nagaswamy, Timeless Delight, p. 13)

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  Lot 59 of 70  

14 DECEMBER 2015

Rs 80,00,000 - 1,20,00,000

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Rs 6,48,00,000
(Inclusive of Buyer's Premium)


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