The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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History haul under hammer
- ART MART: BOWRINGS LIFTS pre-auction veil on calcutta collection

The huge banquet hall of Sonar Bangla Sheraton & Towers has turned into a sale room on Wednesday afternoon. It is crammed with furniture that has a typical ye olde world look, ceramic vases and plates, scores of bronze figures, clocks, enamelled cigarette cases (at least one with a nude painted inside, which enhanced its value), turn-of-century paintings in their crumbling frames and large cases waiting to be unpacked.

The green pile carpet is strewn with scraps of paper and people are darting around, making sure every objet d’art has been displayed just so.

Bowrings Fine Art Auctioneers is all agog for its big day in Calcutta. Bowrings, “India’s leading full service auction house”, will hold its first auction in the city on January 17 at 6.30 pm. The pieces that go under the hammer will be on public view both on January 16 and 17. The sale is the follow-up of the valuation days, held in late September last year.

Patrick Bowring, deputy chairman of Bowrings, said “the quantity and quality” of furniture offered in Calcutta is what set it apart. Such items could be found in other cities too, but the variety is what really mattered — everything from Japanese porcelain to French marbles. He pointed out a gilt brass carriage timepiece (Rs 2.5 lakh-Rs 3 lakh) by Chas Frodsham of London, which still makes clocks.

Asked why the collection of paintings was not really impressive, Bowring indicated the Bhawani Charan Law of a pensive woman (Rs 2.5 lakh-Rs 3.5 lakh) and what he described as the “vigorous” oil by Kisory Roy of a bearded young man (Rs 4 lakh-Rs 6 lakh). Old surely, but is it gold'

There is also on offer a very rare pair of two-fold glazed doors painted with 20 mythological scenes in the Kalighat pata style — the avatars of Vishnu and the Dasamahavidyas, or the 10 forms of Shakti (Rs 4 lakh-Rs 6 lakh). These were from a house in Calcutta built in 1878, says Bowring. Certainly something every museum should bid for.

The highlights of the sale are the Japanese bronzes and Satsuma vases and plates and the Chinese ceramics, as well.

Peter Bufton, an independent art consultant specialising in Far Eastern art, now with Bowrings, flits from one group of items to the other till his gaze finally settles on a large Satsuma saucer dish (Rs 1.4 lakh-Rs 2 lakh), a work of the great painter Kinkozan.

Bufton says: “This is as good an example as you can find anywhere.” He lovingly lingers over baluster vases and 19th Century Japanese bronzes, meant strictly for export to the US and the UK.

The most ancient pieces were the Celedon dishes of early Ming dynasty. Calcutta has to wait for two more days to have its pick.

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