PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL COLLECTION
Oil on canvas
29 x 39 in. (73.7 x 99 cm.)
Signed and dated 'Souza 87' upper right
‘The point is, his objects belong neither to the intimate comforts of a home nor to the glamour of the market-place, both environments being specifically bourgeois in their origins. Very curiously in the object-world he reclaims the sense of the sacred that he so consciously drains from the human being and from God.' (Geeta Kapur, Contemporary Indian Artists, New Delhi, 1978, p. 30)
Some of Souza’s most enduring images from throughout his career bear the influence of his Goan childhood, where he was brought up as a strict Roman Catholic. The artist explains, ‘as a child I was fascinated by the grandeur of the Church and by the stories of tortured saints my grandmother used to tell me. As far as I can recollect, strange fancies always occupied my mind… On retrospection, today, it seems funny, almost ludicrous. But it created the artist in me.’ (F.N. Souza, ‘A Fragment of Autobiography’ Words & Lines, London, 1959, p. 9)
Still Life paintings in the West have always been inspired by a strong ecclesiastical theme. Souza was one of the few Modernists in India who most readily took to this genre, recognising in it the formal elements of the Western tradition, and a chance to explore his own fascination with Christian iconography. His compositions often included some elements used in liturgical practice. As he explains, 'It was the Roman Catholic Church in Goa that gave me any ideas of images and image making.' (Edwin Mullins, F.N. Souza, London, 1962, p. 53)
Souza has also taken inspiration from memento mori, a Medieval Latin Christian theory that reflects on mortality and the eventuality of death. Closely related to memento mori is the genre of vanitas paintings, which also examines theories related to the ephemeral nature of life. Both these styles of picture became popular in 17th century Europe; a religious age when many believed that their lives were merely a preparation for what lay beyond.
Souza’s choice of objects for the current composition reflect these related themes. A skull and a monstrance, traditional symbols associated with death and the Church, are placed amongst flowers, fruit, and wine, objects that symbolise worldly yet transitory pleasures. There is also, not surprisingly, a juxtaposition of the holy and profane. On the right side of the table, the artist has painted forms that are symbolic of male and female genitalia, a practice seen in other works from the period such as Still Life with Symbols of Life (see Vinod Bhardwaj, Francis Newton Souza: Dhoomimal Gallery Collection, New Delhi, 2009, p. 263). The depiction of life-creating organs, represented crudely by the genitalia, placed alongside symbols of death raise larger questions alluding to life over death and good versus evil.
# Import duty at 11% will be charged on the hammer price and GST will be applicable on the total amount of the hammer price plus the import duty.
About The Artist:
FRANCIS NEWTON SOUZA (1924 - 2002)