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19th Century Sikh Painting By Bishan Singh Originally Bought for US $58 Fetches US $133,500





At a nondescript yard sale 30 years ago in north London, a vibrant painting caught the eye of a taxi driver. After successfully knocking the price down to £40 ($58), the man left it hanging in his living room until he decided to redecorate earlier this year.

After deciding to sell because the artwork didn't match his new wallpaper, he took the colorful, two-foot-wide canvas to Roseberys auction house in the West Norwood neighborhood of London, England.

"I just loved the scene," says Bill Forrest, valuer at Roseberys. "You can see why it caught his eye."

The 2ft-10 inches by 23 inches work capturing a bustling steet scene in Amritsar had hung on a wall in his house for three decades.

The auction which confirmed it was actually a 19th Century painting of a Punjab town scene, initially valued it at £500.

But interest in it took off after bidders identified the subject matter as being the historic town of Amritsar in Punjab with the Darbar Sahib - popularly known as The Golden Temple, the heart of Sikhdom - in the background.

The artist is believed to have been painter Baba Bishan Singh, who came from a family of painters responsible for maintaining the murals and motifs on the walls of The Golden Temple.

Bishan Singh is renowned as the painter of “The Court of Ranjit Singh” (1864) which sold at a Christie's London auction in 2008 for £133,250 ($232,223).

The artist himself is also depicted in the bustling scene in the recently auctioned painting and is seen painting a portrait in an alcove of a building, which drove up interest further.

Potential buyers queued up to bid on the painting which eventually sold for a hammer price of £75,000. With fees added on the overall price paid for it was £92,250 (US $133,500).

The cabbie, a Sikh-Briton, was 'over the moon' with the result because his taxi was off-road at the time with a flat tyre.

A spokesman for London auctioneers Roseberys, said: 'It was a painting that caught his eye at a car boot sale.

'He had it hanging in his living room for 30 years and only decided to part with it when he redecorated and decided the painting didn't fit in with his colour scheme.

'He was very happy when we told him it could be worth between £500 to £1,000.

'But after our catalogue went online it attracted a lot of interest and we had four or five serious telephone bidders on the day of the sale.

'Because the [painting depicted the Darbar Sahib and a Sikh/Punjabi historical and cultural scene], it became a very important and very sought-after item.'

The painting may also have been exhibited at the Punjab Exhibition of Arts and Industry in London in 1864, which added to its value.

'When we called the vendor after the sale to give him the good news he was over the moon and couldn't quite believe it.

'He had been having a bad day as his taxi had a flat tyre but he decided to give himself a few days off after the sale.

'It wasn't an under-valuation. It is just that when you have something that strikes a chord with a few serious collectors there is the potential for it to go for a lot, lot more.'

[Courtesy: The Daily Mail and ArtNet. Edited for]
May 6, 2016

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