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Christie's New York
Masterpieces of Early Tibetan Paintings From The Collection of Heide and Helmut Neumann


19 March, 2013, 2 PM


Sale No: 2804


&

Indian and Southeast Asian Art

19 March, 2013, 10 AM and 2.30 PM


Sale No: 2687


Buddha with the One Hundred Jataka Tales

Lot 321, "An Exceptionally Rare and Important Painting of Buddha With the One Hundred Jataka Tales," Tibet, 13th to 14th century, Opaque pigments and gold on textile, from Masterpieces of Early Tibetan Painting from the Collection of Heidi and Helmut Neumann

Photographs copyright Michele Leight, 2013

By Michele Leight

The walls of Christie's galleries literally glowed with the most beautiful Tibetan thangkas and works of art from India and Southeast Asia during Asia Week this spring, including Early Tibetan Masterpieces from the Collection of Heidi and Helmut Neumann of superb quality and sumptuousness, such as Lot 321, "An Exceptionally Rare and Important Painting of Buddha With the One Hundred Jataka Tales," created in Tibet in the 13th to 14th century, illustrated above and in the gallery view below. Intricate, masterfully drawn and exquisitely wrought with hand-made pigments that have not lost their vibrancy through the centuries, the thangkas tell dual stories of the Buddha and their precarious history. Somehow - miraculously - these masterpieces have survived so we can admire them today. Collectors like the Neumanns can and do become keepers of global treasures thanks to their vigilance and awarness of the potential for works of art like this to be lost forever unless action is taken at a critical time to safeguard them.

Masterpieces of Early Tibetan Paintings From The Collection of Heide and Helmut Neumann


Akshobya

Lot 322, "An Early and exceptional Painting of Akshobya," Tibet, 13th century, Opaque pigments and gold on textile, from The Collection of Heide and Helmut Neumann

In an essay in Christie's catalogue for this sale the Neumanns offer insight into how their journey as collectors of these Tibetan treasures began:

"Our fascination with the arts of Asia has flourished since the first major exhibition of early Indian sculpture in Switzerland in 1960. We followed up by attending lectures on the art of India, China, Central Asia and Japan at the universities of Zurich and Harvard, where John Rosenfield directed our attention to the groundbreaking exhibition on Tibetan Art, which Pratapaditya Pal had curated for the Asia Society in 1969...This exhibition, which comprised objects of major aesthetic and arts historical importance, was not only an eye-opener for us but also a starting point for visits to the Himalayan regions, commencing with Nepal in 1971 and Ladakh in 1972, the year it first opened to tourists. Tibet was still inaccessible at this time and remained so until 1981. A first visit to the great Tibetan monasteries in 1982 was followed by almost yearly research trips starting in 1991. The constant exposure during these travels in the Himalayyas to Buddhist art in its special Tibetan forms was reinforced and expanded by studying the collections of Museums in Europe, the United States and Asia...Dr. Pratapadita Pal's 1969 exhibition of the Asia Society included four important paintings dating from the 12th to 14th centuries belonging to the collection of Alice and Nasli Heeramaneck that were acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art shortly thereafter. These early paintings were very rare and remained so in the following nearly two decades as we studied the field and market in greater depth. In total, less than twently early paintings were known in public and private collections at that time. They exerted a particular fascination on us. Clearly derived from the Pala style of Northern India, they stood out in composition, by the rich palette of their colors and the precise drawing. In all elements Tibetan artists of this period showed their superior artistic skills while adhering to precise iconographic conventions...During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 through the following decade some movable art objects were saved by the local population and slowly found their way to the West, among them a small number of early paintings. We were well prepared and ideally positioned to make the most of this unique collecting opportunity, since we had carefully studied and much admired the known body of early paintings whenever we could...Our interest soon became known to the handful of dealers who shared our appreciation for the early paintings. They enabled us to select among their pieces according to our vision paintings from the 12th to 14th centuries that captivate not only the grace and clarity of the composition and the harmony of the colors, but particularly by the artistic qualities of the drawing: lively lines drawn with great care by a steady hand, creating a vitality of the figures and an animation of the faces. This gives rise to great emotions in the prepared mind of the viewer, reminsicent of a famous words by Henri Matisse: 'Drawing is like an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence.'"


Heide and Helmut Neuman in Shelkar Cave

Heide and Helmut Neumann in Shelkar Cave, West Tibet, October 2007; photo courtesy Christie's images

Lot 321, "An Exceptionally Rare and Important painting of Buddha With The One Hundred Jataka Tales" from the Collection of Heide and Helmut Neumann includes illustrations of the Buddhas two chief male disciples, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana: "Shariputra was, at least on one occassion, declared to be the Buddha's true spiritual son and chief assistant in turning the Wheel or Dharma, and became reknowned for his teaching as an Arhat ("foremost in wisdom"). Maudgalyayana was the most accomplished of all the Buddha's disciples in the various supernormal powers that could be developed through meditation, including being able to use mind-reading for detecting lies from truths, transporting himself from his body into the various realms of existence, and speaking with ghosts and gods. He is traditionally attributed with the ability to walk through walls or on water, fly through the air and move at the speed of light...."

These attributes are uncannily similar to those of contemporary heroes and sheroes that fly through space and perform superhuman feats - gods that take human form to perform extraordinary acts for the common good. They may even be comic book characters that morph into the spectacular characters that enthrall us on movie screens, but their origins lie in the myths, legends and holy texts of ancient history that never seem to lose their allure - or their following - no matter how "advanced" we become. Judging by the global success of blockbuster hero-shero movies, their allure only seems to be increasing. There is a need to believe in the extraordinary.

Lot 321, "An Exceptionally Rare and Important Painting of Buddha With the One Hundred Jataka Tales" has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000.
It sold for $1,263,750 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article. It is illustrated and described in Himalayan Art Resources by J. Watt (himalayanart.org), no.30907.

Amitabha

 Lot 323, "An Important Early Painting of Amitabha," Tibet, 12th to 13th century; Photo copyright Chrisie's images

Lot 322, "An Early and Exceptional Painting of Akshobya," created in the 13th century, was exhibited at "Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure," 5 April-17th August, 2003, Art Institute of Chicago; 18 October 2003-11 January 2004, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington D.C. Lot 322 has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $723,750, and is illustrated above.

Lot 323, ""An Important and Early Painting of Amitabha," 12th to 13th century, was exhibited at "The Circle of Bliss," Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5 October-11 January
2003, and Columbus Museum of Art, 6 February-9 May, 2004. It has an estimate of $600,000 to $800,000. It sold for $723,750.

Lot 325, "An Early and Very Fine Painting of Amoghasiddhi," created in Tibet in the 13th century has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $243,750.

All these exceptional thangkas are from the Collection of Heidi and Helmut Neumann.


Gilt bronze of Buddha, left, rare black stone figure of Buddha, right

On the walls in Christie's galleries are Tibetan thangkas from the Collection of Heide and Helmut Neumann; Front left: Lot 342, "A Large Gilt Bronze Figure of Buddha," Tibet, 13th to 14th century;  Front right: Lot 407, "A Rare Black Stone Figure of Buddha," Tibet, circa 13th century, with rear view illustrated below. Both are from Christie's sale of Indian and Southeast Asian Art

Indian and Southeast Asian Art


Rear of black stone figure of Buddha

Rear view of Lot 407, "A Rare Black Stone Figure of Buddha," Tibet, circa 13th century, from The Ottini Collection, Turin

Lot 342, "A Large Gilt Bronze Figure of Buddha," created in Tibet in the 13th century, (and illustrated in the gallery installation above), shows a Nepalese influence, described in Christie's catalogue for this sale: "Nepalese artists were known for their mobility, and the rounded shape of the face framed by long pendulous lobes and neatly curled hair more typical of Tibetan sculpture suggests this bronze was created in Tibet by artists trained in the imperial Nepali atelier."

Lot 342 has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $303,750.

Lot 407, "A Rare Black Stone Figure of Buddha," also from Tibet, circa 13th century, is an exquisite piece, from the Ottini Collection, Turin, acquired in 1980:


"Works of such size and quality in execution in stone are rare in Tibet, where gilt bronzes became the primary focus of the religious commissions. However, works similar in scale and style were being carried out by Pala stone carvers as early as the 10th century; it is likely the sculptor of the present work was trained either in Northeastern India or was of Indian origin himself." (Christie's catalogue for this sale)

Lot 407 has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It passed, which is unfathomable.


Group of objects

Center left: Lot 210, "A Highly Important and Rare Bronze Figure of Buddha," Gandhara, 6th to 7th century, 14 1/4 inches; Center: Lot 201: "A Gray Schist Head of Buddha," Gandhara, 2nd to 3rd century; Center right: Lot 211, "A Highly Important and Rare Silver-Inlaid Bronze Figure of the Youthful Buddha," Gandhara or Kashmir, circa 7th century, 19 1/4 inches; Left and Second from left are two sculptures from The Dharma Collection: Lot 215, "A Gray Schist Figure of Buddha," Gandhara, 2nd to 3rd century and Lot 212, "A Terracotta Head of a Bodhisattva," Gandhara, 3rd to 4th century. 


Rare bronze figure of Buddha

 
Lot 210, "A Highly Important and Rare Bronze Figure of Buddha," Gandhara, 6th to 7th century, 14 1/4 inches      

Two very early and beautiful works of art are illustrated here, and both did exceptionally well in this sale. Lot 210, "A Highly Important and Rare Bronze Figure of Buddha," Gandhara, 6th to 7th century, 14 1/4 inches, (third from left), and Lot 211, "A Highly Important and Rare Silver-Inlaid Bronze Figure of the Youthful Buddha," Gandhara or Kashmir, circa 7th century, 19 1/4 inches, (third from right) have quite a history. Christie's catalogue for this sale provides both geographical and historical context for Lot 210 that is fascinating, given the location of their origins today:

"The magnificent figure of buddha belongs to an extremely rare type of bronze cast in the regions of ancient Gandhara and the Swat Valley in the 5th through 7th centuries. The figure is one of the largest of its type and it still carries its backplate, a combined nimbus and aureole with radiating spokes with an extremely rare motif of flying geese. The solidly cast bronze is a masterpiece of the Buddha image, which illustrates the profound marriage of the contemporary Gupta style with the earlier influences of Hellenistic Gandhara"..."The ancient region of Gandhara, straddling the Khyber Pass in what is now eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, was for centuries an important center of trade and commerce due to its position at the crossroads between India, China, and the Mediterranean world. In the centuries before the beginning of the Common Era, the region came under Hellenistic control after Alexander the Great annexed Gandhara to his expansive empire and later the Gangetic regions of central India during the reign of the great Mauryan emperor Ashoka. Buddhism had been well established during this time, with the Indo-Greek kind Menander and Ashoka himself acting as important royal propagators of the faith, but it is not until the time of the Kushans in the early centuries CE, almost simultaneously in Gandhara and Mathura in central India, that images of the Buddha in anthromorphic form appear."

"Gandhara during the Kushan period was a fervent center of Buddhism, with thousands of monastaries sprawled across the wide riverine plains and tucked away in the more remote valleys north of the Kabul River. The demand for images of the Buddha was great and the vast quantity of works in schist and stucco, and to a lesser degree terracotta and bronze, illustrates the rich artistic tradition of the region. The decline of the Kushans, however, precipitated the invasion of the Huns in the middle of the 5th century, and the peace and splendor of Gandhara was destroyed. Those that survived sought refuge in the remote valleys of Swat and the Hindu Kush, where Buddhism quietly endured until the invasion of Muslim forces in the 10th and 11th centuries"..."During the 5th - 7th centuries, the period referred to as Post-Gandhara, the produciton of large Buddhist works in stone and stucco declined, while the creation of smaller scale images in bronze reached a zenith, This phenomenon must be explained in part by the new conditions of Buddhist worship during this time, except for certain sites such as Bamiyan, the large and wealthy monasteries of the previous era had been replaced by smaller, migratory groups of worshippers. The Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang, who traveled to India in the first half of the 7th century, descibed the situation in Swat as follows: 'There had formerly been 1400 monasteries but many of these were now in ruins, and once there had been 18,000 [Buddhist] Brethren but these had gradually decreased until only a few remained' (U. von Schoeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, 1981, p.72). Pushed to the margins of society, the Buddhist adherents could no longer afford to commission large and permanently installed works. Images in stucco were extremely fragile, while works in schist were too heavy to transport. Bronze, on the other hand was durable, and when scaled down to a small size and cast in several parts, could be bundled up and carried from place to place. Despite the reduced size, the present work would no doubt have been an expensive and precious object of veneration"..."The impressive size of the present example coupled with the unusual iconography of the backplate help to further distinguish the bronze amongst an already rare group. Such works would have been carried by itinerant monks as well as traveling merchants across the trade routes of Asia, and the influence of the late Gandhara style can be detected as far away as China, Korea and Japan." Lot 210 had an estimate of $500,000 to 700,000. It sold for $603,750.

Lot 211, "A Highly Important and Rare Silver-Inlaid Bronze Figure of the Youthful Buddha," Gandhara or Kashmir, circa 7th century had an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000. It sold for $723,750. Both these ancient bronzes were in the top ten lots of the Indian and Southeast Asian Art sale.

Silver-inlaid bronze figure of Buddha

Lot 211, "A Highly Important and Rare Silver-Inlaid Bronze Figure of the Youthful Buddha," Gandhara or Kashmir, circa 7th century

Also illustrated in the gallery installation, (center), is Lot 201, "A Gray Schist Head of Buddha," Gandhara, 2nd to 3rd century, that had an estimate of $180,000 to 250,000. It sold for $339,750, well above its high estimate.Christie's catalogue for this sale notes that "the refined minimalism of this head is reinforced by the lustrous quality of the stone, a dark and finer grain of schist that was highly prized for the high level of detail a sculptor could achieve with this material, and was therefore often reserved for the ost important figures."

Lot 215, "A Gray Schist Figure of Buddha," Gandhara, 2nd to 3rd century and Lot 212, "A Terracotta Head of a Bodhisattva," Gandhara, 3rd to 4th century are both from The Dharma Collection.

Lot 215 had an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $75,000. Lot 212 had an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $75,000.
 

Vairocana

Lot 335, "A Gilt Bronze Figure of Vairocana," Tibet, Densatil, 14th century

Graceful Lot 335, "A Gilt Bronze Figure of Vairochana," created in Tibet in the 14th century is illustrated above. It has an estimate of $400,000 to 600,000 and sold for $1,203,750. Christie's catalogue for this sale notes: "The heavy casting, rich gilding, and inset hardstones present in theis work indicate it may have been crafted in or around the Densatil Monastery in central Tibet. Founded on the site of the meditation hut of Phagmodrupa, a disciple of Fampopa, the monastery became extremely prosperious towards the end of the 13th century when its leaders aligned themselves with the imperial court in China. With their accumulated wealth, the lamas of Densatil hired the finest Newari craftsmen to adorn the votive burial stupas of the deceased abbots. Prior to its destruction, Giuseppe Tucci visited the site and recorded his experience, describing it as 'smothered with a wealth of carvings.' As he cast his flashlight across the works, 'the whole Olympus of Mahayana  Buddhism seemed to have assembled on those monuments glittering with gold outlined and set of by darker hues and deep shadows." (G. Tucci To Lhasa and Beyond, 1956, pp. 126-127).

Bodhisattva

Lot 336, "An Important and Large Figure of a Bodhisattva," Tibet, 9th to 10th century

There were so many magnificent pieces in this sale it is impossible to describe them all, but several did exceptionally well, notably Lot 336, "An Important and Large Gilt Bronze Figure of Bodhisattva," Tibet, 9th to 10th century, which had an estimate on request and sold for $2,811,750, the top lot of the Indian and Southeast Asian Art sale."This large and resplendent figure of a bodhisattva is one of the most impressive early sculptures in bronze to be seen outside of Tibet" (Christie's catalogue for this sale). This beautiful standing bodhisattva is associated with Vajrayana Buddhism, rather than Mahayana.


Shiva Vinadhara Dakshinamurti

Lot 220, "A Bronze Figure of Shiva Vinadhara Dakshinamurti, South India, Chola Period, Last Quarter 10th Century First Quarter 11th century
 
Lot 330, "A Gilt Bronze Figure of Vajrakila Heruka and Dipta Chakra," Tibet, 14th to 15th century, had an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000 and sold for $2,319,750. Lot 220, "A Bronze Figure of Shiva Vinadhara Dakshinamurti, South India, Chola Period, Last Quarter 10th Century First Quarter 11th Century" had an estimate of $400,000 to $600,000, and sold for $1,669,005,  a World Auction Record for a Chola Bronze.
Lot 223, "A Rare Bronze Figure of Vishnu," South India, Pallava period, 8th century," had an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $627,750, a World Auction Record for a Pallava Bronze.


White Tara

Lot 331, "A Gilt Bronze Figure of White Tara," Mongolia, Zanabazar style, 17th to 18th century, from The Dharma Collection


Gilt bronze of Buddha from Mongolia

Lot 219, "A Gilt Bronze Figure of Buddha," Mongolia, Zanabazar school, 18th century, from The Dharma Collection

Shadakshari

Lot 218, "A Gold Lacquered Wood Figure of Shadakshari," Mongolia, 18th century, had an estimate of $250,000 to 350,000, from The Dharma Collection. 

Three works of art that round out the top ten are from Mongolia and are illustrated above: Lot 331, "A Gilt Bronze Figure of White Tara," Mongolia, Zanabazar style, 17th to 18th century, with beautiful blue hair, had an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $627,750; Lot 219, "A Gilt Bronze Figure of Buddha," Mongolia, Zanabazar school, 18th century, $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $603,750; Lot 218, "A Gold Lacquered Wood Figure of Shadakshari," Mongolia, 18th century, had an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $579,750.

Christie's catalogue for this sale notes: "The imperial art school founded by Zanabazar (1635-1723), religious leader, artist, and master craftsman, produced some of the finest bronzes in the history of Mongolian art. Characterized by richly gilt surfaces overall, finely modeled and smoothly sloping contours with embellishments limited to borders, full figures standing or seated on an elevated double-lotus base, the un-gilt base sealed with a gilt double-vajra, and a minimalist aesthetic that endows the figures with a sense of stability, Zanabazar bronze sculptures exhibit a cohesive style testament to the vision of the great leader. Subjects span the full Buddhist pantheon, well-represented here by a seated figure of Tara, the graceful mother to all (lot 331), a cosmic manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodisattva of Compasssion (lot 332), and a figure of Lama bearing wisdom in the form of a palm leaf manuscript (lot 333).

Bronze head of Buddha from Thailand

Lot 417, "A Bronze Head of Buddha," Thailand, Ayutthaya, Circa 16th century, From the Collection of Dr. and Mrs. William T. Price, Texas

Lot 417, "A Bronze Head of Buddha," created in Thailand circa 16th century, is from the Ayutthaya period: "During the 14th through 16th centuries, Thailand's Ayutthaya kingdom became one of the most powerful forces on mainland Southeast Asia. Continuing the artistic trajectory set forth under the Sukhothai, the Theravada polity sponsored the production of Buddha images fashioned in a new distinct style. The faces display a curvilinear contour with the hairline lower towards the sinuous browline accentuated by elongated ears flared at upper and lower tips. The eyes, extending evenly across the width of the face, are three-quarters closed to endow the figure with a sense of serenity that is at once inwardly directed and also engaged with the world." (Christie's catalogue for this sale).

Lot 417 has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $40,000. Lot 417 is from the Collection of Dr. and Mrs, William T. Price, Texas.

Hugo Weihe

Hugo Weihe, Christie's International Director, International Specialist, Head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, with Lot 321, "An Exceptionally Rare and Important Painting of Buddha With the One Hundred Jataka Tales," Tibet, from The Collection of Heide and Helmut Neumann

The sale of Masterpieces of Early Tibetan Painting from the Collection of Heidi and Helmut Neumann achieved $2,955,000. Hugo Weihe, International Director, International Specialist, Head of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, commented: "The Neumann Collection was led by an exceptionally important painting of Buddha, which realized over $1.2 million, a reward for its rarity and significance among early Tibetan paintings."

He said that the sale of Indian and Southeast Asian Art achieved $17,419,375, the highest total ever achieved for a various owner sale in the category and two new world auction records were set, those for a Chola bronze and Pallava bronze.

Sandhya Jain-Patel, Specialist of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, New York, said: "the top ten lots represent not only a wide range of collecting categories but also the diversity of buyers, including private clients from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, as well as institutions. The sale confirmed that Indian court paintings continue to remain strong, while there was also a resurgence of interest in South Indian bronzes and a new passion was exhibited for Himalayan bronzes."

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