Celebrated Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma's Untitled portrait of Damayanti will go under the hammer at Sotheby's upcoming New York sale of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art on March 14.

Estimated at a whopping 500,000 700,000, the iconic painting reimagines a scene from a popular Sanskrit play 'Nala and Damayanti' by combining elements of classic Indian mythology with European Realism to create a painting of brilliant resonance.

Varma's work will also be among the 16 artworks by some of the most pre-eminent creators of South Asian art that will be on display at an exhibition here, to give art connoiseurs a glimpse of the auction that will feature 58 lots in all.

Jehangir Sabavala's monumental 'City-II' (1999), which will be part of both the exhibition, is one of the many artworks that manifest the artist's obsession with the sky.

Estimated at 250,000 – 300,000, the artwork masterfully combines the vibrant hues of yellow and ochre to create a canopy of clouds and sky.

"With the South Asian art market going through one of its most exciting phases at the moment, we are thrilled at the opportunity to exhibit such a strong collection of works by some of the most celebrated South Asian artists of the 20th century in New Delhi.

"Star pieces by artists such as Raja Ravi Varma and Jehangir Sabavala which are notable for their rarity on the international market, are particular highlights," Yamini Mehta, International Head of South Asian Art, said.

The sale also boasts works of extraordinary provenance, including a group consigned from an important Swiss collection, acquired from the outstanding Herwitz sales held at Sotheby s in 1996 and 1997, coming to the market for the first time in over two decades.

Bringing together 2,000 years of Indian art under one roof, the auction will also feature works by modernists like M F Husain, Syed Haider Raza and F N Souza will also be part of the sale as well as the exhibition.

According to Sotheby's, 97 per cent of the lots have never appeared at auction before, and the featured works have been housed for decades in prestigious private collections, including paintings by artists rarely seen on the international market.

"The auction is characterised by its freshness and museum-quality lots. We are honored to be entrusted with outstanding works from well-established collections across Europe and North America in our upcoming auctions," Anu Ghosh-Mazumdar, Head of Department, Indian and Southeast Asian Art, said.

The exhibition of highlights at The Leela Palace here scheduled to be held on February 24 and 25, will form part of a wider programme of events and activities, including a two-day contemporary art course in collaboration with Sotheby's Institute of Art.