Tibet and Nepal
See also : India
9th/10th century CE Tibet Vajrasattva
2013 SOLD for $ 2.8M by Christie's
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, 2013, Christie's sold for $ 2.8M a large bodhisattva, 110 cm high, made 1100 years ago in Tibet, lot 336. 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.
11/12th century CE Tibet Mahasiddha
2015 SOLD for $ 4.9M by Christie's
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 was sold for $ 4.9M from a lower estimate of $ 1M by Christie's on March 17, 2015, 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.
Five Himalayan masterpieces from the Ellsworth Collection http://t.co/AhFhM0yAb5 #ArtDigest pic.twitter.com/28TWFu2r8l— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) March 5, 2015
late 13th century Tibet Vajrapani
2016 SOLD for HK$ 49M by Bonhams
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.
Three treasured masterpieces Of #TibetanArt to be offered at #Bonhams #ImagesOfDevotion sale In HongKong 29 Nov. https://t.co/YT0LaQztnM pic.twitter.com/AwUvcDZ2XY— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) October 3, 2016
Bonhams HK inaugural #HimalayanArt auction views in NY, w/ pieces from Ulrich von Schroeder https://t.co/OunAr7ZpIA pic.twitter.com/QydYDEGqjZ— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) August 28, 2016
13th/14th century CE Nepal Padmapani
2015 SOLD for $ 8.2M by Christie's
A gilt bronze 64 cm high made in Nepal in the 13th century CE was sold for $ 8.2M from a lower estimate of $ 2M by Christie's on March 17, 2015, lot 25. The standing bodhisattva is in the attitude of Padmapani holding a blossoming lotus at his left shoulder. Its execution is extremely fine.
The simplicity of form and the finely cast crowns and beaded jewelry are characteristic of the Nepalese sculpture of 13th century CE. The pose is graceful with soft shoulders, tapered waists and elongated limbs. The downcast eyes express the serenity.
This figure includes a refinement of utmost 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.
It had long been at the best place in the living room of the esteemed collector Robert Ellsworth, on the mantelpiece.
Mr Ellsworth's Gilt Bronze Figure of Avalokiteshvara— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) March 17, 2015
(Nepal, 13th Century) realized $8,229,000 against $3m estimate pic.twitter.com/4D4ot0J7k0
2012 SOLD for $ 2.5M by Christie's
13th/ 14th century CE Nepal Buddha
2017 SOLD for $ 3.85M by Christie's
On September 13, 2017, Christie's sold for $ 3.85M from a lower estimate of $ 600K a 51 cm high Buddha in golden bronze made in Nepal 800 to 600 years ago, lot 620. 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.
5 minutes with... A Himalayan gilt-bronze Buddha https://t.co/w5LOJdSawk pic.twitter.com/17nDyMqA3N— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) September 5, 2017
1375 CE Tibet Vajravali Thangka
2019 SOLD for $ 2.4M by Sotheby's
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, 2019, Sotheby's sold for $ 2.4M from a lower estimate of $ 800K the Opus 26, dedicated to Hevajra, lot 936. 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.
This extremely rare Thangka Depicting a Hevajra Mandala achieved $2.4 million - a record for any Tibetan painting - this week in #NYC. Click below for an in-depth look at this record-breaking work https://t.co/Jnxj09wUWy pic.twitter.com/yZeKrALOfA— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) March 22, 2019
1386 CE Densatil in Tibet
2013 SOLD for $ 2.14M by Christie's
The style of devotion practiced at Densatil was early obsolete and the monastery with its about 2,800 bronze deities was a time capsule when it was completely destructed during the Cultural Revolution.
The most featured figure at Densatil was a couple, Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi. The small consort is seated on the lap of the tall Chakrasamvara and raises her head for a blissful kiss with the frontal head of her partner. They represent together the merry union of wisdom and compassion. Chakrasamvara has typically four heads, twelve arms and a variable number of legs. The naked bodies are covered with jewels and by garlands of severed heads.
The specialist Jean-Luc Estournel proposed a chronology of the seven stupas by considering an increasing complexity of the lower garment. The dates below refer to his analyses.
Vajrakila Heruka and Dipta Chakra constitute a very similar couple. A 27 cm high gilt bronze from ca 1386 CE of these deities was sold for $ 2.14M from a lower estimate of $ 200K by Christie's on March 19, 2013, lot 330.
A 28 cm high gilt bronze of Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi from ca 1407 CE according to the proposed chronology of Densatil was sold for $ 1.57M by Sotheby's on March 17, 2015, lot 1029.
Also from Densatil with the same couple of deities, a 31 cm high gilt bronze with inset gems from ca 1408 was sold for HK $ 9.5M by Sotheby's on October 2, 2017, lot 3123.
15th century CE Tibet Akshobhya
2017 SOLD for HK$ 18M by Bonhams
This recent piece displays some deviation from the Buddhist canon, 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.
Rare and unique Tibetan gilt copper alloy figure of Akshobhya to lead Images of Devotion sale in HK https://t.co/pN4aU822FR pic.twitter.com/8X4nkG8NsJ— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) September 8, 2017
15th century CE Tibet Mila
2023 SOLD for $ 2.1M by Sotheby's
A 12.8 cm high figure made in the 15th century CE in south-central Tibetan style was sold for $ 2.1M from a lower estimate of $ 1.5M by Sotheby's on March 21, 2023, lot 108.
The charmingly smiling young man seated on an antelope skin over a lotus petal is raising a hand to his ear for listening to the world. His signature cotton shawl is draped over the left shoulder revealing a parcel gilt yogi strap slung across the silver body. Such a silver body over a gilt copper base is in the follow of the Pala style while the unusual petal is reminiscent of Yongle bronzes.
A long consecration inscription on the petal side and another one on the baseplate rim refer to Mila as king of the sacred doctrine and identify the patron as a monk located in Nyang Peak who expects that his virtuous auspices will lead his kind mother to reach the Buddhahood.