International auctioneer Sotheby’s will hold a first of its kind auction dedicated solely to Company School Paintings, the work of Indian master artists who were commissioned by East India Company officials in the 18th and 19th centuries.
‘In An Indian Garden: The Carlton Rochell Collection of Company School Paintings’ is dubbed a vivid fusion of science and art, from vibrant zoological portraits to complex architectural panoramas, from the early years in India. The exhibition will be held across Sotheby’s in New York, Hong Kong and London, culminating in an auction on October 27. The works at the auction are being offered by the American collector and art dealer Carlton C. Rochell Junior, who spent the first 18 years of his career at Sotheby's, where he founded the Indian and Southeast Asian Art Department in 1988.
“I first began to collect these lesser-known masterpieces over two decades ago simply for my personal enjoyment, my imagination having been captured by their ‘East meets West’ aesthetic,” said Rochell Junior.
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“When they were painted, these works were the principal way in which India could be revealed to those in Great Britain, who otherwise could only hear stories about this sumptuous land. The meticulous ‘miniature’ style was scaled up to depict birds, animals and botanical studies with remarkable lifelike detail, with the results rivalling any Western who recorded natural history and travel,” he said.
Rochell, who opened his own gallery in 2002, believes that many years on, they are beginning to take their rightful place in world art and the collection can now inspire a new generation of collectors.
Ranging in their subject matter from individual animal and human studies to complex architectural panoramas, together the remarkable corpus of paintings encapsulates on paper the rich fauna, flora and architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. Prior to the stand-alone auction in London on October 27, highlights of ‘In an Indian Garden’ will go on view in Sotheby’s galleries in (17-20 September), Hong Kong (7-11 October) and London (22-26 October).
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In 2019 and 2020, the Wallace Collection in London presented ‘Forgotten Masters: Indian Painting for the East India Company’, curated by renowned British writer and historian William Dalrymple. The ground-breaking exhibition brought to the fore the names of some of the finest Indian painters working on paper during the late Mughal period – introducing the public to the names of these truly great artists. Many of those same names – Shaykh Zayn al-Din, Ram Das, Bhawani Das and Ghulam Ali Khan – are represented in the ‘In an Indian Garden’ auction and many others are emerging for the first time in decades.
Dalrymple said: “This remarkable collection contains quite simply some of the great masterpieces of Indian painting, brought together by a collector with an incredibly fine eye.
“This is a unique opportunity to purchase some of the greatest masterpieces of a genre that is only now beginning to receive its full credit.”