at Sotheby's Indian & Southeast Asian Art Auction September
20, 2002 are relatively small in number but very high in quality
and are highlighted by a stunning group of gilded Tibetan statues.
"Buddha," Lot 16, illustrated above and on the catalogue's
cover,dates from the 2nd to the 3rd Century and is wearing a broadly
pleated sanghati that falls over the plain base from the gathered
loop in his left hand. His right hand, which is missing, would
have been raised in "abhya mudra," a gesture of reassurance.
His finely carved face is especially realistic bearing in mind
that he was carved between the 2nd and 3rd Century AD, when Gandhara
was a thriving civilization. His beauty and grace is a tonic in
these strained times. "Buddha,"which is estimated at
$100,000 to $150,000, was presented to the Charterhouse School,
Surrey, England, in 1881, by Charles Pearson. It sold for
including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this
article. In a letter headed "Rawalpindi, 19th February,
1881," C. Pearson (O.C), District Inspector of Schools, wrote
to Rev. G. H. Davies: "I have dispatched today the image
of Buddha which I promised. You may expect to hear from Messrs.
King & Co about a month after you receive this letter. I
sending you some account of the Buddhist sculptures of the Peshawr
Valley. This image of Buddha was given to me by the Khan of Dubyan,
a village near Holi Mardan in the Peshawr District. It was found
in a ploughed field with other remains of an image temple accidentally
exposed a year ago." What is particularly nice about this
work is the way his drapery cascades over the base.
alloy "Vishnu-Vasudeva-Narayana," from Cambodia, Khmer,
illustrated above, is in the Angkor Wat Style, 12th Century and
represents Vishnu as the highest god of the Pancaratra sect of
Vaishnavism. As the absolute and omnipresent Narayana,Vishnu is
the ascetic - yogin - possessing a third eye and a high crown
of hair, and as Vasudeva he represents the universal soul who
creates the visible world with his four arms, and lastly, as Vishnu
he represents the material world. Hinduism found glorious expression
in copper statues like this and in the large sculptures and relief
stone panels on the walls of magnificent Angkor Wat. Lot 6 is
estimated at $15,000 to $20,000 and sold for $20,315.
Lotus Mandalaa of Hevraja," an 11-inch-high copper alloy
sculpture from Eastern India, 11th/12th Century, is in the form
of a lotus flower, supported by two bodhisatva figures.The eight
petals of the flower open to display the eight-headed and sixteen-armed
Hevraja, surrounded by eight dancing goddesses. It is an intricate,
brilliantly conceived work of art, and the type of object many
would associate with the mysterious trophies rescued from megalomaniac
collectors by Indiana Jones types because of the powers they possessed.
Intricately wrought animals, including a pig, tortoise, and lion,a
kneeling archer, a monk and a monk's staff are only some of the
elements in this amazing object. The more you look, the more you
will find, and be amazed at the imagination of the creator of
this piece. It has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold
Lot 10 is
a copper alloy "Ritual Bell," 21 inches high from Cambodia/Vietnam,
2nd Century BC-2nd Century AD. The catalogue observes that it
may have belonged to religious or political leaders. This graceful
bell is decorated with continuous scrolled bands, and the hollow
interior does not display any attachment to which a clapper might
have been attached, suggesting it was struck from the outside.
Dongson, a village in North Vietnam, was the site of a French
archaeological dig, which unearthed the bronzes from this period.
Similar examples found in Thailand and Indonesia have also been
labeled Dongson. Judging by its fineness, this bell may have come
from a more complex chiefdom society, rather than a simple village
society. It has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It failed
to sell and was passed at $17,000.
glance Lot 36, "Vaishnvite Architectural Surround,"
(Black Stone, Rajasthan, 11th/12th Century) appears to be a one-of
a-kind gateway or door surround. Instead, it is an architectual
element that would have framed a large central Vishnu. The name
should ring a bell because Manil Suri's book entitled "The
Death of Vishnu" has been on the bestseller lists for some
time and is now available in paperback. Exquisitely carved in
fine detail, it depicts the avatars, or emanations: these include
Varaha, Narasimha and Vamana in the top left register and Parashurama,
Ramchandra, Balarama and Buddha in the opposite register.The supporting
columns contain varied tantric forms of the four-armed, seated
Vishnu, and two standing forms at the base. Each looks inwards
to the place where Vishnu would normally be seated. It is stunningly
conceived and executed, even without Vishnu. Hopefully, whoever
buys this gorgeous piece will already have or will purchase a
divine Vishnu to accompany it - preferably a museum so that we
may all delight in it. It has a modest estimate of $40,000 to
$60,000. It failed to sell and was passed at $32,500.
Tibetan Buddhist Monastary was founded during the reign of King
Trisong Detsen , who reigned from 755 to 797 A.D. It was built
in Samye. The wonderfully painted portrait, Lot 72, "King
Trisong Detsen," (Tibet, 18th-19th Century), was painted
in distemper on cloth. Time has not marred its rich pigmentation,
as can be seen from the detail above. The king in his sumptuous
robes and elegant turban is the centerpiece in an elaborate composition
that includes a portrait of the Fifth Dalai Lama in the top register
above the king's golden roofed palace. The exhuberant style of
this painting is associated with the high court in Lhasa in the
18th and 19th centuries. It is modestly estimated at $20,000 to
$30,000. It sold for $23,900.
"A Palladian House, Calcutta," by Sunita Kumar, (b.1942),
is a grand and wonderful mansion in a city which was once called
"The City of Palaces," because it was a showpiece for
diverse and magnificent architecture. Calcutta's fascinating history
has included being the capital of British India, and, more famously,
the home of Mother Teresa, whose Missionaries of Charity began
in this city, which was her home, and where she died. After initially
devoting her works to Mother Teresa, with whom Ms. Kumar had a
deep and significant relationship, the artist has recently drawn
inspirition from the older buildings of Calcutta, which echo the
past, but, as in "A Palladian House, Calcutta," Ms.
Kumar's bright pallette and classical forms use these old buildings
to convey a sense of optimism for the future of a city that has
had its share of trials and is known for its poverty. Calcutta
also has a reputation for tolerance, a love of the arts and culture,
intellectual rigour and great hospitality. This lot has a modest
estimate of $3,000 to $5,000. It failed to sell and was
of the Bengali artist Jamini Roy (1887-1972) are prized by connoiseurs
- as well as by those who know exactly what they like and do not
need anyone else's seal of approval. Many works by Jamini Roy
are in the collection of The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersberg,
Russia. The artist painted on media as diverse as jute, cardboard,
canvas and paper, and in several different styles. The elegant,
monochromatic "Untitled," (undated, gouache on paper),
illustrated above, is a collector's piece: the universally beloved
theme of a deer - and the spareness of execution - is both timeless
and modern. It is estimated at $5,000 to $7,000. It failed
to sell and was passed at $4,000. Two other paintings by
Roy, Lot 144, "Krishna Stealing the Butter," (gouache
on cardboard), estimated at $5,000 to $8,000, and Lot 145, "Gopini,"
(gouache on cardboard), estimated at $6,000 to $8,000, are brightly
colored, figurative works in a traditional Indian style. At sixteen,
Jamini Roy attended the Government School of Art in Calcutta,
where the academic tradition of Lord Leighton and Alma-Tadema
- a distinctly Western artistic tradition - prevailed. He mastered
the required techniques, but creativity and originality flowered
only when he began to draw on his own cultural traditions, resulting
in the strong outlines and flat areas of color associated with
many of his unique works of art. Jamini Roy was awarded the Padma
Bhusan in 1955, and spent most of his working life in his home
city, Calcutta, where he died in 1972. Lot 144 sold for
and Lot 145 sold for $7,170.
much to delight the connoisseur and the curious at this sale and
the auction is highlighted by many gilded statues, including some
14th Century Tibetan works. The grace and beauty of the bodhisattva
illustrated above belies his expression, which, on close inspection
is somewhat wrathful! This gilt copper "Vajradhara"
with silver and gems comes from Tibet and is dated to the 13th
to 14th Century. It appears to be wearing only fine jewelry, and
an ornate crown. His legs are effortlessly crossed and one gets
the feeling that it would be no strain at all for him to have
sat like that for hours without mishap.Vajradhara's arms are crossed
at the wrist and hold the vajra and ghanta. Lot 50, estimated
at $25,000 to $35,000 is an exquisite piece. It failed to
and was passed at $15,000!
fine Tibetan piece is the highly expressive, gilt copper "Vajrapani"
with gems and polychrome from the 14th Century. The 8-inch-high
statue, which is Nepalese in origin, has a modest estimate of
$35,000 to $45,000. It failed to sell and was passed at
The finely etched tiger markings indicate that he is
a tiger skin "dhoti," and also a flayed snow lion skin
mantle, and the poor creature's head does appear beneath his right
arm. These are the only fierce elements in an otherwise rather
adorable "protector" of the Buddha, which is Vajrapani's
job, and his absence of convincing "menace" is proper
and fitting for anyone in Buddha's orbit.
gilt copper "Mahakala" with gems and polychrome is another
Tibetan piece from around the 14th Century. The extremely charming,
15 1/4-inch-high statue manages to appear benign and imposing
simultaneously, despite the necklace of severed heads visible
on the scalloped hems of his luxurious robes. The multi-layered
robes are incised with floral patterns and his other fine
include a jewelled necklace and belt, and a jewelled five-leaf
skull crown and lapis earrings. The only thing missing from this
fine bearded darmapala is an implement" which used to be
in his hands. The style of this Mahakala relates to the sculpture
from south central Tibet, where the Densati Monastary stood before
it was destroyed. Photographs of this and other monastaries and
temples in the area were taken by P. Mele in 1948, which have
helped document their origins. Lot 57 is estimated at $100,000
to $150,000. It sold for $196,500.
A far more
menacing gilt copper alloy "Mahakala," Lot 63 is Tibeto-Chinese,
Early Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644. It appears to be in mint condition
and is decorated with "lethal" components as well as
decorative ones: coiled snake earrings, snakes entwined in his
flaming hair and around his neck and waist, and the garland of
severed heads all contribute to the sensation that this was definitely
not a guy to mess with. Judging by the outstretched corpse beneath
his feet, Mahakala had decided that his time had come, and it
would have been interesting to know what his transgressions were
to so enrage his avenger. The corpse is in fact a crowned divinity,
who is lying face-up on a double lotus throne. The parallels to
transgressions by certain "divinities" in our own time
- who have attorneys - is interesting to ponder. One furious look
from "Mahakala" would probably stop child-abuser's in
their tracks.This lot has a modest estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It sold for $26,290.
paintings are one of the great delights of Indian art; the Mughal
Emperors and courtiers valued the arts highly, and patronized
them, as is demonstrated by these exquisite paintings, jali screens,
architectural panels - and unforgettable monuments like the Taj
Mahal. The predominantly 18th Century watercolors offered for
sale include the stunning "A Prince Reclining On a Couch
By Moonlight," Lot 113, originally from the Carter Burden
Collection. It was painted by Nidha Mal, a Mughal artist who worked
in Delhi during the reign of Muhammed Shah (1719-48). He probably
spent his last years in Lucknow, a city known for its glorious
architecture. His works are characterized by extreme delicacy
of execution, and, in this particular painting, an unusually
and subtle palette. Paintings by Nidha Mal are in the Binney
San Diego, the Los Angeles County Museum, the Bharat Kala Bhavan,
Benaras and the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay. It has an estimate
of $30,000 to $50,000. It failed to sell and was passed at
was the late 16th Century Queen of Ahmadngar, and as can be seen
from the illustration above, she had a very elegant and sporting
life: not too many ladies go hawking these days! The unusual punk-rock,
acidic green, which predominates in this lovely painting, Lot
119, is the perfect backdrop for the graphically depicted horse
and rider, who seems to have no trouble negotiating the reigns
in one hand and a fierce bird clutching at her other outstretched
wrist. The opaque watercolor on paper is 18th Century and has
an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It failed to sell and was
passed at $17,000!
were very much a part of the everyday life of a Mughal ruler or
nobleman, and they often had their portraits painted, much as
the British aristocracy had their dogs and horses - occasionally
accompanied by their children - preserved for posterity on canvas.
Frankly, the Mughal elephants, like the winsome English dog and
horsey pictures, are sometimes more memorable than the rather
dour looking Lords and Ladies, whose expressions seem focused
on absolutely nothing on the distant horizon, though they always
wore great clothes and knew exactly which part of their magical
acreage to stand in front of. The Indian miniatures in this sale
run the gamut of noblemen and women in pursuit of life's celebrations
and elegant rituals, without a hint of stress, which is very restful
especially because it is completely unattainable.
"Royal Elephant and Mahout," Lucknow or Faizabad (Attributable
to Mihr Chand or Bahadur Singh, opaque watercolor and gold on
paper, circa 1765-70), is estimated at $40,000 to $60,000, and
was the work of one of the two artists mentioned, who painted
at the court of Shuja-ud-Daulah, the ruler of Lucknow from 1754
to 1775. It failed to sell and was passed at $32,500.
1765 the court was moved from Lucknow to Faizabad, and the period
of stable government which ensued allowed gorgeous paintings like
this to flourish. Pity the elephants name was not inscribed somewhere
discreet, as was often the custom.
with elephants - or imagine having an elephant in the family -
there is a very impressive "Howdah," (parcel gilt silver,
tiger- eye, wood and velvet, India, 19th Century), Lot 101, designed
to make the ride on the elephant a pleasant and, in this case,
very noticeable event. The forward seat is flanked by two magnificent
lions and fish - an eccentric combination but it works - backed
by a panel displaying heraldic lions (always a winner, ask any
six year old), flanking a shield. As might be expected, hunting
scenes around the seat of the howdah depict turbaned figures with
muskets and a lion attacking a deer.The whole amazing concoction
is supported by "paw" feet. Now that's the way to arrive
at an art opening in Manhattan, and Hammacher Schlemmer should
buy it - for a mere $20,000 to $30,000. Even a New York Cab driver
would be impressed.The howdah is the perfect "grand finale"
to this sale, which should be a winner. It failed to sell and
was passed at $17,000.
quality of the works in the sale is as impressive as the time
span of this cultural heritage; artifacts range from the 2nd century
BC to artists working in major Indian cities at the present time.
Of note are the many paintings by Maqbool Fida Husain, (b. 1915),
for example, Lot 164, "The Assasination of Gandhi,"
estimated at $10,000 to $15,000, and a wonderful canvas, Lot 170,
by Bikash Bannerjee, a self-proclaimed painter-journalist entitled
"Visit,"which shows a sort of Charlie Chaplin figure
in the doorway, peering curiously at a pair of boots - his own
boots - tied to a rope: "they rise out of reality" explains
the artist and a desire to make a social statement. Intellectual
rigour and art meet and succeed in this whimsical yet powerful
painting, estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. Lot 164 sold for
$10,158 and Lot 170 sold for $11,950.
about half of the offered lots sold, a very disappointing auction,
for a total of $2,148,235.