Tibet and Nepal
Chronology : 1000-1150 1150-1300 14th century
How to hold a Vajra
2013 SOLD 2.8 M$ including premium
A bodhisattva is necessarily beautiful, powerful, self-possessed, effective. His jewelry, hairdressing, clothes, are superb. The bronze allows a very fine carving and its gilding expresses the spiritual wealth. This fruitful style has produced masterpieces during several centuries.
On March 19 in New York, Christie's sells a large bodhisattva, 110 cm high, made 1100 years ago in Tibet. The 'superman' of that time shows some Nepalese influences.
The right hand is clenching on the breast an object that has disappeared. The Buddhist symbolism leaves no doubt: it was a vajra, the talisman of the absolute fight against ignorance.
In his quiet attitude, our bodhisattva is Vajrasattva, distinguished from Vajrapani brandishing the object with fury and with Vajradhara, holding the vajra in both hands, who is a quintessential Buddha.
Of course, this bodhisattva was made several centuries after the sculpted stones of Gandhara. As a gilt bronze, it is a figure of high antiquity which anticipates the preaching of Atisha and the extension of the cult of Amitabha, the Buddha of extreme bliss.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate was not published, but this large bronze was announced as a masterpiece. It is confirmed: $ 2.8 million including premium.
2008 SOLD 1.5 M$ including premium
Avalokiteshvara is one of eight Great Bodhisattvas, disciples who made the vow to follow the path shown by the Buddha Shakyamuni. He has other names that lovers of Asian art are familiar with, as the representative statuettes are numerous: Guanyin in Chinese, Kannon in Japanese.
Avalokiteshvara is masculine, but its derivatives Guanyin and Kannon are female (which is not necessarily a contradiction according to the postulates of successive lives of Buddhism).
The gilt bronze statue of 68 cm high was made 1100 years ago in Tibet but inspired by the style of Kashmir. The representation is realistic, although the chest is too strong and the arms are too long. The attitude is supposed to express compassion.
It is covered from head to feet with ornaments made of precious materials.
Awakening with the Sage
2015 SOLD for $ 4.9M including premium
The collector Robert Hatfield Ellsworth liked to surround himself with his favorite pieces scattered in his huge apartment in Manhattan. On the headboard of his bedroom, his preferred bronze greeted his awakening every morning. He named it his Yogi.
This statuette 32 cm high is the portrait of a sage seated in the lotus position. The wide open eyes indicate his will to communicate with his visitors and classifies him among the teachers. The smooth forehead without the third eye is confirming that the model was a human.
Several elements including the fleshy body and the dense and curly hair are reminiscent of Padampa Sangye. This important mahasiddha (great Buddhist adept) was born in South India and died 900 years ago after teaching perfection in Tibet for many years.
This bronze is estimated $ 1M for sale without reserves by Christie's in New York on March 17, lot 8. The subtitle of this lot in the catalog originates it in Tibet in the 11th or 12th century of our calendar, considering in fact that this figure is contemporary of the life of the sage or slightly later.
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.
Amitabha and the 127 Buddhas
2012 SOLD 1.05 M$ including premium
On September 12 in New York, Christie's sells a thangka of high antiquity with some outstanding features. This artwork was painted for Buddhist devotion in mineral pigments and gold on textile about 750 years ago in WesternTibet.
The large central cartouche honors Amitabha, the Buddha of nirvana, in the attitude of absolute beatitude. He is seated on a throne with heraldic lions in caryatids.
This piece of textile is small: 65 x 56 cm. The crowd of 127 Buddhas, each one located in a square, that surrounds Amitabha is a proof of the iconographic fineness of this work. Their attitude is similar, but the color of the skin is much varied (up to bright blue) certainly for assessing that Buddhism is designed for the universality of races.
The lowest register is fascinating for the historian. It is dedicated to wise men and donors in comparable size as the small Buddhas and each of them is identified by an inscription. Thus the third from the left is Atisha, the monk who reintroduced Buddhism to Tibet two and a half centuries earlier.
Collected by an Italian explorer in 1933, this thangka remained in his collection and is offered for the first time at auction. It is estimated $ 400K.
POST SALE COMMENT
This culturally important thangka was sold for $ 1.05 million including premium.
The previous lot was another thangka of the same period, collected by the same explorer. It was presented with the same estimate and was sold for $ 1.76 million including premium.
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.
The Previous Lives of Buddha
2013 SOLD 1.26 M$ including premium
From the earliest centuries of Buddhism, the doctrine of reincarnation has excited the imagination. They grouped under the name of Jataka a corpus of tales in ancient Sanskrit. In his previous lives, Buddha incarnated any animal and human form along with the most worthy social conditions. These stories are not considered as sacred texts.
On March 19 in New York, Christie's sells a painting on textile, 114 x 84 cm, made in Tibet 700 years ago, estimated $ 600K. Here is the link to the catalog.
Buddha, in the center, sits on a throne supported by lions. He is flanked by his first two disciples. Three donors are also identified.
The rest of the picture is occupied by one hundred small square thumbnails illustrating the Jataka tales, each one with a gold inscription identifying the number and title.
These minute scenes demonstrate the freshness of inspiration of these human or human-like characters involved in adventures as varied and as moralizing as the Fables of Aesop or La Fontaine. The Jataka has on the competing collections of fables the advantage of having a thread, as the human or animal lives of Buddha must necessarily lead to wisdom.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting on a theme of great rarity deserved to far exceed its higher estimate. It was sold for $ 1.26 million including premium.
1375 A Mandala for each Deity
2019 SOLD for $ 2.4M including premium
A cycle of thangkas includes in the center of the upper register of each piece the figure of His Holiness the Dharma Lord, an honorific name of an important Tibetan Lama who died in 1375 CE, while missing to identify whether the series was painted in his lifetime or shortly afterward. Nearly twenty pieces survived, in a unique format around 84 x 75 cm. The experts assume that the group of artists was of Nepalese origin.
These thangkas are numbered, probably since their creation. Opus 19, which passed at Bonhams on November 29, 2016, is the mandala of Marici, the goddess of light.
On March 21 in New York, Sotheby's sells the Opus 26, dedicated to Hevajra, lot 936 estimated $ 800K. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
Hevajra is a male deity of meditation with eight heads and sixteen arms. Each hand holds a symbol of the universe. He is entwined in a dance movement with one of his wives or with another deity. Sometimes he tramples the prostrate ignorance.
The central part of the mandala is a five-chamber apartment to accommodate the five manifestations of Hevajra shown each time in another carnation. A large number of goddesses are dancing inside and outside this apartment.
2017 SOLD for $ 3.85M including premium
On September 13 in New York, Christie's sells a 51 cm high Buddha in golden bronze made in Nepal 800 to 600 years ago, lot 620 estimated $ 600K. This hollowed figure served as a reliquary and still preserves a mixture of scriptures, fabrics and herbs.
The Sage is figured at the moment when he reaches the enlightenment after having finally repelled the demons. He is sitting in the position of the bhumisparsha mudra : the palm of the left hand is open upward for an offering and the right hand touches the ground to signify that Buddha's body is now providing the mystical connection between Earth and Heaven. The gaze is in retrospection, the third eye is prominent and the toes are splayed.
On October 3 in Hong Kong, Bonhams sells a 34 cm high Buddha in the same posture except that the lightning appears under the right hand. It was made in Tibet 600 to 500 years ago in copper alloy, gilt with the exception of the lapis dyed hair and of the offering bowl which here has survived. This figure is estimated HK $ 15M, lot 22.
On this piece which is more recent than the statuette discussed above, the deviation from the Buddhist canon is more visible, including a triangular face emphasizing the broad forehead at the expense of the chin and a sharp edged nose. The bust and arms are too long, probably deliberately to accentuate the commanding attitude. The patchwork robe inlaid with turquoises, garnets and lapis is inspired by the Chinese imperial silk garments.
It is the first of the the three lots highlighted by Bonhams in the video below.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Nepal at Christie's : SOLD for $ 3.85M
Tibet at Bonhams : SOLD for HK$ 18M
1427-1435 Feudal Buddhism in Tibet
2018 SOLD for $ 1.2M including premium
Under the Yuan dynasty Tibet was vassal of the Chinese empire. The early Ming seek a religious legitimacy from Tibetan lamas without interfering in politics, and Tibet falls into a feudalist regime where dynastic or sectarian civil war is endemic.
The very long reign of gongma Drakpa Gyaltsen was however relatively quiet. Under his protection the new Buddhist sect Gelug creates several monasteries. At the end of this period a young fief leader of Central Tibet named Norzang founds the Jamchen monastery circa 1427 CE with his spiritual teacher of the Sakya traditional sect.
The inscription names as patrons that Sakya master assimilated to a bodhisattva and the "ruling brothers" Norzang and Palzang, eager to create a place of worship where the faithful can reach the stage of omniscience. The name of the artist is Sonam Gyaltsen.
In 1435 Norzang took advantage of the civil war for the gongma's succession to sustainably take over the political power with a function of regent. At this date his brother has disappeared from history. Assuming that the referred place of worship is Jamchen, this defines the post quem and ante quem terminus of the lot at 1427 and 1435 CE, an unusual accuracy for a piece of Buddhist art.
This statuette of a refined execution is 68 cm high, a large size compared to other pieces of its period. It was thus most likely the central part of an altar. It shows Avalokiteshvara in his role as omnipotent Lord with eleven heads and one thousand arms, here reduced for the convenience of the figuration to eight primary arms and thirty-four secondary arms forming a beautiful radiant winged shape. This scarce image of the most popular bodhisattva certainly relates with Norzang's personal ambition.
Please watch the video shared by Bonhams.
A gilt copper alloy figure of #Avalokiteshvara Sahasrabhuja Ekadasamukha, also know as The Jamchen Avalokiteshvara by Sonam Gyaltsen, brought an outstanding $1,212,500 during today's Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art sale during #AsiaWeekNY https://t.co/gfVqvDtp87 pic.twitter.com/3jyyMbtcEp— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) March 19, 2018