Monday 30 October 2023

Lot 539

F.N. Souza (Indian 1824-2002), Still Life (skull, cross, oil lamp), 1986, oil on canvas, 120 x...

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Lot 539

F.N. Souza (Indian 1824-2002), Still Life (skull, cross, oil lamp), 1986, oil on canvas, 120 x...

Price Realised: £39,240

Estimate: £30,000 - £50,000

Price realised is hammer price plus fees (31.2% Buyers Premium inclusive of VAT).

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Lot 539


F.N. Souza (Indian 1824-2002), Still Life (skull, cross, oil lamp), 1986, oil on canvas, 120 x 60cm. (47.2in. x 23.6in.)

Provenance: The property of Dr. Premlata Goel, widow of the distinguished art critic, K.B. Goel; Gifted by Souza to his close friend, the art critic, K.B. Goel (1930 - 2018).

The genre of still life painting provides a glimpse into Souza’s psyche; questions of religion and morality tormented him throughout his life.

In this still life by Souza, as in others by him, there is a compositional quality which is his hallmark. The assemblage of objects reveal the precision of his mental processes and remarkable draftsmanship. In the work, on the table religious symbols are interspersed with other objects reflecting Souza’s Catholic upbringing and the influence of the Church on his adolescent mind.

“The Roman Catholic Church had a tremendous influence over me, not its dogmas but its grand architecture and the splendour of its services." (Edwin Mullins, Souza, Anthony Blond Ltd. London 1962, p. 42). In another instance, Souza describes dining at a priest’s home in Goa, “Sunday evenings, the vicar invited me to dine with him […] A laundered tablecloth was spread only when he [the Vicar] had guests, a luxury he permitted himself with touching simplicity.” ('Nirvana of a Maggot', F. N. Souza: Words and Lines, Villiers London 1959, pp.17-18).

Writing on Souza’s still life compositions, the distinguished critic Geeta Kapur notes that ‘they are mostly ornate vessels and sacred objects. These objects retain their ritual aspect both on account of the visual description and composition... They are moreover, clustered formally as if on the shelf of the sacristy…’. (G. Kapur, Contemporary Indian Artists, Vikas Publishing New Delhi 1978, pp. 29-30)

This work is predominantly painted in tones of yellow. The skull makes its presence felt in one corner - a striking reminder of the certainty of death. This symbol dating from antiquity is known as a Memento Mori, Latin for “Remember that you will die”. In the opposite corner, juxtaposed to the skull, is the large vase full of flowers symbolising the blossoming of new life. It occupies much of the space in the foreground with the bright red flowers. The thick wooden cross stands firm next to this vase. The oil lamp beside the skull illumines the entire scene. 

There is a more restricted yet judicious use of colours for a work of this period. Here, it is a subtle yellow shade that fills the entire background, dominating the painting. This seems to signify the dispelling of darkness and dark thoughts. Souza must have been in a happy state of mind while painting this work.

This juxtaposition of ideas, hope and despair, light and dark, life and death is expressed with effortless ease and clarity. Souza signs off the work in his inimitable style; thick black outlines the foreground forms effectively enveloping them. They are remarkable for their energy and geometric visual harmony.


Buyer's Premium

The buyer shall pay the hammer price together with a premium thereon of 26% up to £20,000 (31.2% inclusive of VAT), 25% from £20,001 - £500,000 (30% inclusive of VAT), 20% from £500,001 thereafter (24% inclusive of VAT). The premium price is subject to VAT at the standard rate.

VAT is not charged on the hammer price unless it is stated that there is 'VAT applicable on the hammer price at the end of the description. Buyer's premium is subject to VAT.

Qualifying living artists and the descendants of artists deceased within the last 70 years are entitled to receive a re-sale royalty each time their work is bought through an auction house or art market professional.

It applies to lots with hammer value over €1,000 as follows:
0 to €50,000 - 4%, €50,000.01 to €200,000 - 3%
€200,000.01 to €350,000 - 1%,
€350,000.01 to €500,000 - 0.5%
Exceeding €500,000 - 0.25%
ARR is capped at €12,500

Please note ARR is calculated in euros. Auctioneers will apply current exchange rates.

Export of goods

Buyers intending to export goods should ascertain whether an export licence is required before bidding. Export licences are issued by Arts Council England and application forms can be obtained from its Export Licensing Unit. Details can be found on the ACE website or by phoning ACE on 020 7973 5188. The need for import licences varies from country to country and you should acquaint yourself with all relevant local requirements and provisions before bidding. The refusal of any such licences shall not permit the cancelling of any sale nor allow any delay in making full payment for the lot.

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