The collection of Kanwardip Gujral - photographic images from the 1850s to the 1940s, covering India and the adjacent countries - was sold in London by Bonhams on 9 April for record prices.
The strength of interest in the sale impressed Bonhams specialists who said the sale had set a new benchmark for images of this kind. David Park, Head of Books Maps and Manuscripts at Bonhams said: “This sale of a single owners collection received a huge amount of interest. As a result the sale made £512,000 with many items going to three and four times their estimate. This sale has rewritten the prices for all the major photographers whose works were featured in the sale. The value of their work has been seriously raised.”
Top item in the sale was lot 14, a series of 102 prints of Kashmir in northern India in the 1860’s and 70’s owned by Lord Lansdowne, Viceroy of India from 1888 to 1894.. It had been estimated to sell for £10,000 to £20,000 but at the Bonhams sale it made £72,000. The photographs were by John Burke, William Baker and James Craddock.
The Collection was that of the late Kanwardip Gujral, a Hamburg-based businessman who was born in Lahore but brought up in Agra after 1947. His first purchase of Indian photographs was in 1976, but his collecting began in earnest in 1990 when he bought a group of nineteenth century albums while on holiday in Italy. The albums included a number of photographs of India, and formed the basis of his Collection.
Images range widely, from the North-West Frontier to Bengal, Himachal Pradesh to Madras, although there is a discernable focus on Agra, the place of Gujral’s childhood. Bonhams will be selling dozens of portraits of princes, many large and hand-coloured, as well as albums recording their marriages, shikar, keddah, and viceregal visits. A number of photographs date from before 1857, and are by John Murray, Felice Beato, Frederick Fiebig, and others.
The Collection in effect records the lives of Indians, and of Europeans in India: their dress, their trades, and their achievements – from albums compiled by viceroys to those of railway engineers and a series of photographs of the Lower Ganges Canal. It shows us their homes (from the simplest Toda hut to the grandest palace in Rajasthan), and their methods of transport (from bullock carts, howdahs, Rolls Royces, private railway carriages).
Highlights include: an album of views in Kashmir by Baker, Burke, Craddock and others, owned by the Viceroy, Lord Lansdowne; several very large hand-coloured portraits of maharajas and other princes; fine topographical views by numerous early photographers of India including Bourne and Shepherd, Beato, Deen Dayal, Colin Murray, Saché, Tripe, Hooper, Biggs, Pigou, Neill, and others.
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