India and South Asia
See also : Tibet and Nepal Buddhism Modern India Gaitonde Ancient sculpture Early Buddhist sculpture Islam Time Instruments Textiles Jewels II Cartier
Chronology : 1-1000 1000-1300 1620-1629 1700-1709 1860-1869
Schist Group from Gandhara
2020 SOLD for $ 6.6M including premium by Christie's
narrated post sale in 2020
Around the 1st century CE, Buddhism defined the 32 characteristics of the figurative representation of Buddha to provide the faithful with visual elements to facilitate interpretation. The Gandhara sculptors gradually abandoned Greek figures to illustrate in schist the scenes from the life of Buddha. An ascetic Buddha from the fasting episode was sold for $ 4.45M including premium by Christie's on March 22, 2011.
A 62 x 59 cm gray schist stele surfaced in 1973. Under a lush Buddha tree, five deities are housed with scales varying according to their position in the Buddhist canon. The central figure is the Shakyamuni Buddha in the preaching period, seated on lotus petals. He is flanked by the bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya. Avalokiteshvara is recognizable by the tiny figure of Buddha coiled in his crown. Behind them, the two smaller worshipers are Brahma and Indra.
All these figures have been carved in deep relief in the stele. The very skilful composition provides the perfect illusion of a sculpture in the round. In the Greek style, the faces are realistic and the attitudes are flexible.
This stele bears an inscription. It is dated to the 5th day of the month of Phalguna in the year 5 from a period that has not been identified, between the end of the 1st century and the 5th century CE. The donor, named Buddhananda, is learned in the three baskets (pitakas), covering all the sacred texts at that time, and he dedicates the work to his parents.
The sculpture is in excellent condition, apart from the fact that three of the bodhisattvas' four forearms carrying offerings are missing. It was sold for $ 6.6M including premium by Christie's on September 23, 2020, lot 609.
#AuctionUpdate Sold to applause after competitive bidding, a rare and magnificent gray Schist Relief Triad of Buddha Shakyamuni with Bodhisattvas realized $6,630,000 -- more than 8x over its high estimate. https://t.co/ui1Ion9dcd pic.twitter.com/nxEKQeqVPI— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) September 23, 2020
The Charming Pala Prince
2017 SOLD for $ 24.7M including premium
Three religions cohabitated : Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. They shared a same preoccupation of regulating the communication between the divine and the mortal. In Buddhism this function is assured by the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.
On March 14 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 233 a statue realized in the later phase of the Pala period around 900 years ago.
The young man sits on a thick lotus, one leg bent and the other hanging. This figure is carved in a black stone similar to a schist which was widely used in the Pala steles and whose hardness enables a great sharpness of sculpture.
He necessarily has all the qualities. The spectacular dynamism of the attitude appeals to dialogue with the faithful. He is a prince elegantly dressed with a profusion of pectoral jewels chiseled in the stone but he also is an ascetic recognizable by his braided hair. His belonging to Buddhism is identified by Amitabha hidden in a fold of the tiara : he is altogether Avalokiteshvara, the all-seeing lord, and Lokanatha, the savior of the world.
The character is life-size in this 148 cm high statue. Such characteristics unusual in Buddhist art suggests that it was the main devotional figure in a temple specially dedicated to Avalokiteshvara.
It was from 1922 an important piece in the collection of Indian art of the Boston Museum before being de-accessionned in 1935 for a trade with another statue of the same culture. The arms and nose were missing. The nose was later rebuilt.
The Nepalese Bodhisattva
2015 SOLD for $ 8.2M including premium
The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was popular under various names throughout the Buddhist world. Nepalese enthusiastically welcomed this charming young man entrusted for teaching purity to them. Nepalese bronzes show him in a standing position with a big lotus on its rod floating behind the left arm.
With his hand wide open as a sign of benevolence, his bare chest and his face focused on meditation, Avalokiteshvara is somehow the Apollo of Buddhism.
A gilt bronze 45 cm high made in Nepal 800 to 700 years ago was sold for $ 2.5 million including premium by Christie's on March 20, 2012 over a lower estimate of $ 250K.
A figure 64 cm high of very similar design is estimated $ 2M for sale without reserves by Christie's in New York on March 17, lot 25.
This gilt bronze includes a further refinement of high importance. The crown is centered with a fine seated figure of Amitabha, the Buddha of Nirvana, leaving no doubt about the role played by Avalokiteshvara to guide humans to the gods.
late 13th century - The Holder of the Thunderbolt
2016 SOLD for HK$ 49M including premium
Vajrapani is the appropriation of Indra by Buddhism. He holds the thunderbolt which takes the feature of a diamond scepter capable of ripping any material or enemy. The Buddhism tames the violence of the terrible warrior into an uncompromising defender of its moral teachings.
The 1.05 m high statue for sale is an assembly of six pieces of cast brass alloy inlaid with copper. The joints are positioned so as to remain invisible to the faithful. The oversized head is painted with cold gold and white and orange pigments. The hollow structure is closed in the back by a plate enabling to preserve ritual offerings.
By comparison of style with a Yuan stone stele showing the same figure, this statue may be dated from the late thirteenth century of our calendar. The turquoise and coral insets are later.
The artist has done everything to symbolize a fierce power : massive proportions, raised arm brandishing the lightning, knee bent by the warrior in action, lower garment decorated with tiger skin, wild facial expression, wide open bulging eyes, flaming beard, and the long fangs at the corners of the mouth.
Please watch the video shared by Bonhams.
1627-1628 Indian inscribed diamond in a 1972 necklace assembly by Cartier
2011 SOLD for $ 8.8M including premium by Christie's
In 1972, for Elizabeth Taylor's 40th birthday, Richard Burton humorously declares that he would have liked to offer her the Taj Mahal but that the monument was not transportable. The real gift is an evocation of it : a Mughal piece of jewelry, which Burton had bought for around £ 350K.
This jewel is centered with a large heart-shaped diamond inserted in a surrounding of same shape in red stones, jade and small diamonds. The diamond is inscribed in Persian : Nur Jahan Baygum Padshah, 23, 1037. The ribbon for using it as a pendant is faded. Liz Taylor has it replaced by Cartier with a gold chain terminated by a fraying of gold threads bearing rubies.
In the Hegira calendar, 1037, corresponding to 1627 CE, is the year of Jahangir's death in the 23rd year of his reign and thus marks the end of the long recency of his wife Nur Jahan. Shah Jahan is the son and successor of Jahangir.
On December 13, 2011, in the auction by Christie's of Elizabeth Taylor's estate, this jewel designated as the Taj Mahal was sold for $ 8.8M including premium from a lower estimate of $ 300K, lot 56.
After the sale, the buyer, who remained anonymous, understands that there is no evidence that the Taj Mahal jewel was ever in the hands of Jahangir or Shah Jahan. He is an important customer and Christie's is attempting to cancel the sale of this lot. The trust in charge of the actress's estate opposed it in 2015 and 2017 by legal complaints, arguing the absence of irregularity. The end of the story is not known.
Cotton and Pashmina
2013 SOLD 4.8 M£ including premium
Measuring 388 x 411 cm, it has a classic repetitive decor of millefleurs, with a star lattice. The drawing of the edge is a later design. It was woven about 300 years ago, but its appeal is largely due to the fact that it is not oldest, once will not hurt!
Indeed, the great ancient Mughal carpets were in silk and are significantly degraded. The Vanderbilt specimen is in cotton, in ivory color for the warp and blue for the weft. The upper layer or pile with the decorative pattern is in pashmina which is a wool from Kashmir.
It is estimated £ 1.5 million, for sale by Christie's in London on October 8.
POST SALE COMMENT
This exceptional carpet from North India greatly exceeded its estimate. It was sold for £ 4.8M including premium.
The image of this magnificent piece of textile in very good condition is shared on Wikimedia:
1865-1870 A Maharajah converts to Islam
2009 SOLD 5.5 M$ including premium
He commissioned the creation of a carpet in pearls and gems, whose beauty can be worthy of the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad at Medina. This work unique in its kind was made, but the Maharaja died in 1870 before the gift was made. The carpet was retained by the family, and remained there for over a hundred years.
It looks in its patterns like a textile carpet centered with three rosettes, and otherwise based on the millefleurs motif fashioned in India in the previous century. It consists of two millions of natural pearls, hundreds of gems of all kinds and a countless colored glass beads.
Sotheby's, which sells it in Doha on March 19, does not publish the estimate but only the starting bid: 5 MUS$. For the moment it is the most extraordinary artwork that has been announced for auction this year.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sensing the difficulties in the market for Islamic art, Sotheby's had lowered its starting bid at $ 4.5 million. They have done well. The carpet of pearls was sold at $ 4.8 million hammer, $ 5.5 million including fees.
As Beautiful as Blue Feathers
2018 SOLD for HK$ 117M including premium
The constitution of a collection to make a necklace is a patient work that can extend over several generations. After being cut into a homogeneous shape, the stones are assembled in a sequence of gradual dimensions.
On November 27 in Hong Kong, Christie's sells the Peacock Necklace, lot 2068 estimated HK $ 95M. Please watch the video shared by the auction house, revealing that it took almost a hundred years to gather the gems and more than fifteen years to prepare the jewel.
On a platinum necklace 39.5 cm long, 21 Kashmir sapphires are interspersed with white diamonds. All these stones have a cushion shape. The weight of the sapphires ranges between 10.56 and 3.02 carats for a total of 109.08 carats which is staggering in their class. The diamonds are between 4 and 1 carats.
On April 7, 2014, Sotheby's sold for HK $ 77M including premium the Red Emperor, a necklace of pigeon's blood rubies assembled in 2013 amidst diamonds after being collected by a specialized company created in 1905. As for the Peacock Necklace, the utmost care had been taken in the homogeneity of the prestigious color.
1880s Blue Sapphires from a High Place
2015 SOLD for HK$ 52M including premium
These Kashmir sapphires are sensational in their saturated color, their transparency and their velvety surface. This balance is obtained by the presence of various impurities in the crystal of corundum : tourmaline, pragasite, zircon, allanite, biotite, garnet and even a natural radioactive tracer, the uraninite. Such a mixing is unique and allows to certify the origin of a sapphire without any information about its history.
Back to the early 1880s. The deposit that had been recently laid bare by a landslide is located in a valley of high altitude that required a week of approach walk. The value of these gems is not immediately understood but the local maharajah is able to control the extraction. In 1888, a geologist delegated by the maharajah finds that the vein is already depleted.
This ephemeral mine produced some big sapphires that reach their whole splendor through an emerald shaped cut in a circle of diamonds. One of them weighing 28.18 carats was sold for $ 5.1 million including premium by Sotheby's on April 29, 2014.
Another sapphire in a similar fashioning is named The Jewel of Kashmir. It weighs 27.68 carats and is estimated HK $ 48M for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on October 7, lot 1860. Nature achieved the perfect balance between velvety and transparency, in a stunning royal blue hue altogether homogeneous and saturated.
1961 Blue Abstraction by Gaitonde
2021 SOLD for INR 40 crores (worth US $ 5.6M) including premium by Saffronart
narrated post sale
Through the window of his small studio, he looks at the sea. It is infinite in its subtle shades of blue, and the horizon is immaterial, like an abstraction. To express this meditative universe, Gaitonde replaces the brush by the joint use of rollers and knives. In 1961 he paints blue infinities in a panoramic format. He works as a recluse but has friends who immediately acquire his works.
A blue abstraction, oil on canvas 102 x 125 cm, includes a horizon, contradicted in its middle by a wide stripe which is extended towards the bottom of the image by its reflection. It was originally acquired by Akbar Padamsee. It was sold for $ 1.08M including premium by Bonhams on September 17, 2014, lot 151.
The masterpiece from this period is an oil on canvas 177 x 203 cm. The abstraction is total and without limits. In this immersion of shades of blue, a tiny and unique red point focuses the attention as a signature of the Zen inspiration. It is acquired by a young couple. They will keep this monumental work in their living room for nearly six decades.
This painting was sold on March 11, 2021 by Saffronart for INR 40 crores worth US $ 5.6M, including premium, lot 13. Please watch the video shared by the auction house, in which the daughter of the first owners brings her very interesting vision on the quality of the work and the role it played in her life.
Rothko's influence will come in 1964 during a stay in New York. Gaitonde abandons blue for warm colors and almost always opts for the vertical format.