An exquisite late eighteenth century painting of a flying fox by the Calcutta artist Bhawani Das sold for £458,500 (Rs 4.60 crore approximately) as part of an Islamic and Indian Art sale conducted by auctioneers Bonhams on Tuesday.
Das’ pen and ink painting on watermarked paper of the flying fox (Pteropus Giganteus) was estimated to sell for between £80,000 pounds and £120,000 but achieved a price four times over, Bonhams said.
It was bought by an unnamed private collector. The painting was from the ‘Calcutta Collection of Lady Impey’.
Lady Impey was the wife of Elijah Impey, who was the East India Company’s Chief Justice of Bengal from 1774 to 1782.
Lady Impey, who joined him in Calcutta in 1777, was particularly interested in the flora and fauna of the surrounding area, creating her own menagerie.
Bonhams said that she commissioned studies of animals and plants from various artists from the nearby city of Patna, the most senior of whom were Shaykh Zayn-al-Din, Ram Das and Bhawani Das.
The precision of these artists’ technique, which stemmed from the Mughal tradition, appealed to British patrons.
Over time,the technique and the subject-matter have come to be known as ‘Company School’.
The series that was commissioned by Lady Impey as well as others in a similar style by unknown artists are particularly striking because of their large size, using sheets of English watermarked paper.
There were 326 works in the original series, which were brought back to England with the Impeys in 1783, and were later sold at Phillips (now Bonhams) in London in 1810.