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The 29-cr Gaitonde and other Indian masterpieces

Last updated on: December 18, 2015 07:56 IST

An oil painting by abstract artist Vasudeo S Gaitonde set a new record for Indian artwork when it sold for a whopping Rs 29.3 crore ($4.4 million) at a Christie's auction in Mumbai on Tuesday. 

Gaitonde's untitled painting from 1995, which broke the previous record of Rs 26.9 crore ($4.01 million) paid for a Francis Newton Souza work at a sale in New York earlier this year, was purchased by an anonymous 'international collector'.

The painting was one of the last completed in Gaitonde's small barsaati (terrace studio) in Nizamuddin, Delhi, before he moved to Gurgaon in 1996. Gaitonde, considered to be one of the foremost abstract painters in India, passed away in 2001.

Let's take a look at the others on the list of the most expensive Indian paintings ever sold:

Francis Newton Souza: 'Birth'

Sold For: Rs 26,90,80,686 (Rs 26.9 crore)

About the painting: In terms of scale, subject, period and provenance Birth represents the magnum opus of Souza’s career, and sets itself apart from so many modernist works of the time in that it was considered a triumph by the artist’s critics and contemporaries. The 1955 painting uniquely encompasses all the subjects that define Souza’s early practice, including the pregnant reclining nude with hairpins, the autobiographical man in a priest’s tunic, a still life on the window ledge and, beyond the window, a townscape with corniced buildings and tall steeples.

V S Gaitonde: Untitled

Sold For: 23,70,25,000 (Rs 23.7 crore)

About the painting: Gaitonde's untitled oil-on canvas golden yellow coloured landscape painted in 1979 and bearing his signature in Hindi went to a private collector from the US who placed the bid over telephone. The jewel-toned painting is one of the earliest works done by the artist after he graduated from the JJ School of Art and was in personal collection of Mumbai-based gallerists duo, the late Kekoo and Khorshed Gandhy.

Tyeb Mehta: 'Mahishasura'

Sold For: Rs 19,78,25,000 (Rs 19.7 crore)

About the painting: Mahishasura recounts a Hindu legend where a demon-king produces a son through his union with a she-buffalo. The painting was formerly in the collection of Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini and his Indian wife Sonali Dasgupta. It had been a gift to Rossellini from the artist who was a friend.

Syed Haider Raza: 'La Terre'

Sold For: Rs 18,61,91,325 (Rs 18.6 crore)

About the painting: Painted in 1986, La Terre, or the Earth, represents the breakthrough between abstraction and the crystallisation of pictorial structures mimicking the crystalline patterns of nature. It integrates his expressionist techniques into an abstraction of form, laced with geometricity and structured philosophical thought.

Amrita Sher-Gil: Untitled

Sold For: Rs 18,28,42,830 (Rs 18.2 crore)

About the painting: Given by the artist to her cousin-niece and husband during Sher-Gil’s visit to Europe circa 1933. These relatives were part of Ervin Baktay’s branch of the family. The painting was in the possession of the family and was acquired from them by the current owner.

V S Gaitonde: Untitled

Sold For: Rs 18,15,00,000 (Rs 18.1 crore)

About the painting: The 1982 painting, by Gaitonde was bought by an anonymous bidder for nearly double its low estimate at the Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art sale.

Tyeb Mehta: 'Falling Bull'

Sold For: Rs 17,54,25,000 (Rs 17.54 crore)

About the painting: The painting from 1999, is a virtuosic celebration of the iconic subjects and symbols that embody the oeuvre of this modern master. The trussed falling bull is the protagonist set upon a rickshaw, seemingly spiralling out of control towards cataclysm. The trussed bulls of the Mumbai's slaughterhouses futilely struggle, powerless in the face of the inevitable, and exemplify for Mehta the conditions of indignity and constriction in Indian everyday life. This painting is a monument to this sentiment, the animal struggling and contorted on a rickshaw, caught in a crash.

Amrita Sher-Gil: Untitled-Self Portrait

Sold For: Rs 17,51,24,620 (Rs 17.51 crore)

About the painting: This self-portrait from 1931 is one of Sher-Gil’s undiscovered paintings, never before seen or exhibited publicly. It remained in France from the time it was painted. It was recently exhibited first in New York, at Christie’s, and then London for its sale preview and auction. This self-portrait is the only painting known among the artist's 19 previously documented self-portraits in which the artist is in complete profile and avoiding any interaction with the viewer.

Amrita Sher Gil: Untitled (Self Portrait)

Sold For: Rs 17,27,66,405 (Rs 17.2 crore)

About the painting: In this painting, there are also unmissable similarities to the work of Frida Kahlo, with its dominant frontal pose, strong palette and emphasis on the features. Just like her art, Amrita’s life bore numerous parallels to that of Kahlo. For one, the two were women artists of Hungarian descent working within a male dominated Modernist movement. They were rebellious characters who chose to express their social, political and intellectual beliefs through their art.

Francis Newton Souza: 'Man and Woman Laughing'

Sold For: Rs 16,84,00,000 (Rs 16.8 crore)

About the painting: The 1957 painting shows a couple with big, ugly teeth and all-knowing eyes up in their foreheads. It's signature Souza who was as scathing with his brush as he was with his tongue. It shows one of Souza's main preoccupations -- to unveil the hypocrisy of the society he inhabited, and expose the "perverted pantomime of human relationships" through his furious brushwork and pictorial imagery.