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Tagore's paintings fetch 1.6 million pounds

art-and-culture Updated: Jun 16, 2010 13:44 IST

PTI
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Tagore's paintingDespite protests in India, a set of 12 rare paintings by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore was sold off for a whopping 1.6 million pounds at an auction house here.

The art works of Tagore massively exceeded the pre-sale combined estimate of 250,000 pounds at the Sotheby's auction.

The collection was described by Sotheby's auctioneers as "arguably the most important group of works by Tagore ever to appear at an auction".

Sotheby's declined to reveal the identity of the buyers of today's 12 paintings, describing them as anonymous. A Sotheby's spokeswoman said all the pictures sold well above the asking price.

One of the art works, untitled Portrait of a Woman, painted in dark tones by Tagore in 1938, fetched 313,250 pounds as against the pre-sale price of 30,000-40,000 pounds.

Another untitled 'Portrait of a Woman' in watercolour, gouache, coloured ink and pastel on paper also done in 1938 went for 223,250 pounds as against a pre-sale estimated price of 25,000-30,000 pounds.

The news of the auction last month had led some art lovers and politicians in India to seek intervention by the Indian government. They said the paintings were national heritage and should be brought back to the country.

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, asking him to take steps to bring the paintings back home.

Culture Ministry officials in New Delhi were tight-lipped over what role the Indian government would assume at the auction, but some officials made it clear that the government cannot officially bid for the paintings.

The paintings were sold by the Dartington Hall Trust charity and the Trust is expected to get a good chunk of funding for their arts education programmes from the sale of the paintings.

The charity - set up to advance innovative ideas and programmes in education, social reform and rural regeneration in the 1920s - has strong ties to Tagore.

The estate in the south-west English county of Devon was purchased by Leonard Elmhirst, a close friend of Tagore. Elmhirst travelled to India to work as Tagore's private secretary.