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Rare work by master painter of the 'wet sari' up for auction
By The Week
Mar 19, 2021
To trace the first popular representation of the "wet sari" in Indian art, one need look no further than Hemendranath Mazumdar.
A hundred years ago, the Bengali artist painted Palli Pran (Soul of the Village) where his female subject is shown emerging from a dip in the village pond. Her back portrait is sensuously swathed in a dripping wet sari, covering her bare flesh in translucent folds from the head which is staring down in thought. This award-winning painting would go on to establish Mazumdar as one of the foremost Indian artists working in the western academic style of painting, specifically known for capturing the desirability of elite Bengali women of his time.
In an online auction on Modern Indian Art to be held by AstaGuru on March 30, a rare masterpiece from the limited oeuvre of Mazumdar will be out in the public domain for the first time. An untitled oil-on-canvas, painted in 1940 and estimated at R 40 to 50 lakh, doesn't quite overplay erotic metaphors with a wet sari, but subtly arouses a deep curiosity and allurement. Rather than the backviewrecurrent in Mazumdar's body of workwe have a sideways portrait of a slender female figure draped in a gold sari and decked in minimal jewelry. As she bends to tend to her feet propped on a raised platform, her eyes appear to be closed, almost in peaceful slumber. The thin, shimmering sari in antique gold, wrapped in gentle wrinkles, is set against a night-black backdrop, lending the painting its dark, palatial refinement.