On sale: A rare portrait of Mahatma Gandhi

Under the hammer in London


July 10, 2017

/ By / New Delhi

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A rare pencil portrait of Mahatma Gandhi and some handwritten letters by him are going on sale in an auction at Sotheby in London. Below are their details.

A piece of art dating back to 1931, a work of artist John Henry Amshewitz, is to be put for auction at Sotheby’s in London on July 11. A rare pencil portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, a leading Indian political figure and freedom fighter, the sketch features Gandhi sitting on a floor and writing something. The artist has inscribed “Truth is God / MK Gandhi / 4.12.’31” on the portrait.  Approximately costing between GBP 8,000 – GBP 12,000 the portrait was made on Gandhi’s visits to London for the Round Table Conference.

“Gandhi usually refused to sit for formal photographs, let alone a portrait, making this an extremely rare portrayal of the political leader at work,” said a statement issued by this auction house dealing in fine arts.

Put on sale for the first time and after 86 years of its making, the portrait has been in the family of a local resident all this while, who was closely associated with Kingsley Hall, where the political leader was staying. It was handed over to her soon after Gandhi’s departure from London.

The auction will also have a collection of handwritten letters by Gandhi addressed to Sarat Chandra Bose and his family, a prominent Indian political activist at the time.  The letters are said to include important comments on the partition of the eastern Indian state of Bengal from Bangladesh, now a neighbouring country. The letters are just from a while before Gandhi’s assassination and hint towards the immense political pressure he must have faced during his last months.

“Gandhi was initially supportive of Bose’s efforts, but shifted his position. He had little sympathy for Bose’s vision of a socialist Bengal and, coming to see that the political forces in favour of partition were irresistible, turned instead to trying to mitigate its effects,” an Indian daily quoted Sotheby’s saying. The daily also quoted an excerpt from Gandhi’s letter, “You should give up the struggle for unity of Bengal and cease to disturb the atmosphere that has been created for partition of Bengal,” it reads.

Other letters at sale tell of Gandhi’s associations with Bose and his family and an affectionate bond they shared.  Dating from mid 1940s the letters also tell of Gandhi’s visits to Bose’s home in Kolkata (then Calcutta) and of his discussions with Amiya Nath Bose, Sarat Chandra’s son on India’s future and development. Together, these letters have an approximate combined estimate of GBP 23,000 – GBP 33,000.

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