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Souza's creations make history in UK

UK auction house Bonhams creates history by having a sale of works of Indian artist Francis Newton Souza.

india Updated: May 05, 2006 15:12 IST

Auction house Bonhams here has created history by having a sale of works of one Indian artist, Francis Newton Souza.

"The sale reflects the explosion of interest in and rising value of Indian art in general and Souza in particular," said Bonhams. The works on paper went under the hammer at New Bond Street Wednesday.

A mesmerising work was atheist Souza's "Christ crowned with thorns". This was an ink on paper, signed and dated 1952 lower left and estimated at £5,000-7,000. It sold for £8,500.

"After Paul Klee's Great Dome", a work done as far back as 1927, a simple ink on paper, signed and dated 1957 and estimated at £5,000-7,000 , sold for £11,000. This work reflects the epicurean eye that Souza had; nothing escaped his sharp vision or wit.

With the sense of fine detailing in the architectural facades, the refined multiple contours that hint at multifarious steeples, this is Souza at his romantic best.

"How sad is human weakness, how very sad, how beautiful," wrote Souza.

And when you see his work "Crowned Head", a simple collage on magazine paper, signed and dated 1962 upper right, inscribed on attached paper "Victor/Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 1963/Souza", you realise that this was one of a series of emperor heads that he had done.

Estimated at £8,000-12,000, it was indeed one of the more robust renditions. "Victor" refers to Victor Musgrave, who was the owner of Gallery One in London, whom Souza often referred to as a friend who helped him greatly. This work sold for £17,000.

Yet another enthralling work is "Christ bound and crowned with thorns", a lithograph on paper, signed and dated 1963 lower left, numbered 81/100, estimated at £1,500-2,500.

Four of the 39 lots didn't sell and many went within the range of their estimated value, or at the low end ascribed to them by the London-based auction house. Some telephone buyers paid large premiums.

"There is plenty of Souza on the market and there's no need to bid them up," Peter Osborne of London's Berkeley Square Gallery told IANS.

He bought several lots close to their low valuations, and had three other people buying for him in the room.

Bonhams' final total for the auction of Souza works, which had a combined top value of £213,300, wasn't immediately available.