A painting from the Impey Album, by the artist Bhawani Das: a Great Indian Fruit Bat, or Flying Fox (Pteropus giganteus) Calcutta, circa 1778-82
Lot 292
A painting from the Impey Album, by the artist Bhawani Das: a Great Indian Fruit Bat, or Flying Fox (Pteropus giganteus)
Calcutta, circa 1778-82
Sold for £458,500 (US$ 719,036) inc. premium

Lot Details
A painting from the Impey Album, by the artist Bhawani Das: a Great Indian Fruit Bat, or Flying Fox (Pteropus giganteus) Calcutta, circa 1778-82
A painting from the Impey Album, by the artist Bhawani Das: a Great Indian Fruit Bat, or Flying Fox (Pteropus giganteus)
Calcutta, circa 1778-82
pen and ink, watercolour with gum arabic, heightened with bodycolour, on watermarked paper, inscribed at lower left In the Collection of Lady Impey at Calcutta/Painted by [in Persian in nasta'liq script, Bhawani Das] Native of Patna, numbered 163 at upper right, framed
457 x 687 mm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Private collection;
    Christie's, West-East: the Niall Hobhouse Collection, 22nd May 2008, lot 7;
    Collection of Stuart Cary Welch (1928-2008);
    Mary Reade, Lady Impey (1749-1818).

    Published:
    S. C. Welch, Room for Wonder: Indian Painting during the British Period 1760-1880, New York, 1978, p. 40, no. 8;
    Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, Indian Painting for British Patrons 1770-1860, London, 27th February-28th March 1991, no. 2 (illus.);
    Niall Hobhouse, Indian Painting for the British 1780-1880, London, May 2001, no. 1 (illus.).

    Sir Elijah Impey was the East India Company's Chief Justice of Bengal from 1774 to 1782. He was a well-known patron of Indian artists, but his wife, Mary, 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. She then commissioned studies of animals and plants from various artists from the nearby city of Patna, the most senior of whom were the Muslim Shaykh Zayn-al-Din, and the Hindus Ram Das and Bhawani Das, the painter of the present lot. The precision of these artists' technique, which stemmed from the Mughal tradition, appealed to British patrons, and the technique and the subject-matter have become known as 'Company School'. The series 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 sold at Phillips in London in 1810. For a scene, perhaps painted by Shaykh Zayn-al-Din, depicting Lady Impey supervising her household, see S. C. Welch, Room for Wonder, p. 23, fig. 3.

    The Great Indian Fruit Bat, or Flying Fox, has a wingspan of 1.5 metres, well captured in this painting. A second painting depicting a Flying Fox, by an artist in the circle of Bhawani Das, this time with one wing folded, was also offered in the Niall Hobhouse sale (lot 8). Stuart Cary Welch, who owned our painting at one point, commented (Room for Wonder, p. 40) that '...[its]true nature seems sadly sweet, thoroughly timid, and pathetic.'
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