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Sotheby's New York
Indian and Southeast Asian Works of Art

March 20, 2013, 2 pm


Sale 8976

  
Thangka depicting Sachen Kunga Nyingpo     Thangka depicting Mahasiddha Avadhitipa

Left: Lot 238, "A Rare and Important Thangka Depicting Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Central Tibet, Ngor Monastary, circa 1600; Right: Lot 239, "A Rare and Important Thangka Depicting Mahasiddha Avadhitipa," Central tibet, Ngor Monastery, circa 1600

Photographs copyright Michele Leight, 2013

By Michele Leight

The two beautiful 16th century Tibetan thangkas illustrated above are from Ngor Monastery, reknowned for commissioning some of the most significant thangkas in Tibet. Both arehighlights of Sothebys New York Indian and Southeast Asian sale - and arguably among the finest treasures of Asia Week in New York this spring. Lot 238 features Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, and Lot 239 depicts Mahisiddha Avadhutipa. Both are from Central Tibet and are in immaculate condition, given their age.

"Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the first of the Five Great Sakya Masters, was born into the founding family of Sakya Monastery in U-Tsang, Central Tibet in 1092. The third Sakya tridzinor throne holder, Sachen ('The Great Sakya') inherited his position and spiritual authority from his father Khon Konchok Gyalpo, the founder of Sakya Monastery and the first tridzin, as well as his regent the second tridzin, Bari Lotsawa Richen Drag...Under the tutelage of Lama Shangton Chobar, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo received the Lamdre oral instructions and integrated this practice into the Sakya tradition; since this time, the Lamdre teachings have become a Sakya hallmark and specializaiton. Sachen also wrote many well-known treatises and commentaries on Sakya lineage texts, and was celebtated for his accomplishments in learning and realization. Sachen devoted his life to study, intensive mediation retreat, and the transmission of the tangtrayana teachings to his manyy worthy disciples, including his sons Sonam Tsemo and Drakpa Gyyaltsen, who would become the next generation of Sakya parriarchs and tridzins.
" (Sothebys catalogue for this sale)

"An Introduction To Ngor Painting" in the catalogue notes" "As the seat of the Sakya lineage lies along the heavily traveled trade route between the Kathmandu Valley and Lhasa, the region was perfectly situated to absorb artistic influences from India and Nepal to the west, and China to the east. Through the discerning partonage of later Sakya rulers, the artists of Ngor Monastery produced a multitude of distinguished paintings, recognized evan at the time as works of the highest caliber."

There are believed to be thirty paintings in this set from Ngor Monastery. Jeff Watt, Director and Chief Curator of Himalayan Art Resources (www.himalayanart.org) is cited in the catalogue for his assistance in the research of these paintings.

Lot 238, "A Rare and Important Thangka Depicting Sachen Kunga Nyingpo,"
has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $725,000.

Lot 239, "A Rare and Important Thangka Depicting Mahasiddha Avadhitipa," has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $485,000.


Thangka depicting Vajrabhairava

Lot 243, "A Highly Important Thangka Depicting Vajrabhairava," Tibet, dated by inscription 1740


The stunning thangka illustrated above is Lot 243, "A Highly Important Thangka Depicting Vajrabhairava," the main deity of the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism, who is dark blue in color, has nine heads, thirty four arms and sixteen legs. An inscription on the reverse of the painting indicates that it was commissioned and blessed at the Great monastic college of Danyakatakuri, which is within the monastery of Gonglun Jampa Ling in Amdo, Eastern Tibet. It was created in the 18th century.

 Lot 243 has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $275,000.


Black stone Vaisnavite stele

Lot 268, "An Exceptional and Highly Important black stone Vaishnavite Stele," India, Rajasthan, 11th/12th century.

Standing 38 1/2 inches high, Lot 268, "An Exceptional and Highly Important black stone Vaishnavite Stele" was carved in Rajasthan, India, in the 11th to 12th century. Exquisitely conceived, it features Lord Vishnu, surrounded by his ten avatars - incarnations - or manifestations of himself in mortal form on earth. While a new generation think of avatars as protogonists of the blockbuster movie of the same name with blue people flying around luscious digital forests, the original meaning of the word is ancient, first referenced in one of the oldest religious texts in human history, which relates to this magnificent portrayal of the Hindu deity Vishnu:

"Whenever righteousness wanes and unrighteousness increases, I bring myself forth"
"For the protection of the good, for destruction of evil, and for the establishment of righteousness, I come into being from age to age."
 (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4, verse 8)


The avatarsin this amazing creation include a fish, tortoise, boar, lion-man, and dwarf.

Lot 268 has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $581,000.

Demon

Lot 289, "A Rare and Highly Important Copper Alloy Figure of a 'Demon," India, possibly Karnataka, circa 17th century, from the Leo Figiel M.D. Collection

The two folk art bronzes featured here are personal favourites, because they are the real deal in a sea of garish contemporary imitations that proliferate across India today - beloved, one must add, by those that could never afford such a magnificent piece like "Demon Bronze," who love the unpretentiousness of Folk Art. Every airport shop or tourist trap has newly minted versions of Folk Art bronzes, but nothing can dim the glory of a piece as original as Lot 289, "A Rare and Highly Important Copper Alloy Figure of a 'Demon,'" possibly from Karnataka, circa 17th century, or Lot 283, "A Copper Alloy Figure of Garuda," from Himachal Pradesh, circa 16th to 17th century. The "Demon Bronze" is only 13 1/2 inches high but appears much larger and is described in Sotheby's catalogue for this sale as the most well known, widely published and frequently exhibited Indian folk bronze in the world. It was featured in two of the first groundbreaking exhibitions on Indian art in the United States: Unknown India: ritual Art in Tribe and Village at The Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1968, curated by the late Dr. Stella Kamrisch and INDIA!at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1985, curated by the late Stuart Clay Welch. "Demon Bronze" is one of several beautiful Folk Art bronzes offered at this sale from the Leo Figiel. M.D. Collection.

Lot 289, "Demon Bronze," has an estimate of $60,000 to$90,000. It sold for $75,000.
 
Lot 283, "A Copper Alloy Figure of Garuda," is 21 inches high and depicts a praying winged figure, kneeling with a cobra in front of him
. Garuda means "eagle" in Sanskrit, a mythical bird referenced in Hindu and Buddhist mythology that feeds on serpents - or, more literally, vanquishes evil. It was exhibited at The Sensuous Immortals, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October 25, 1977 - January 15, 1978; Seattle Art Museum, March 9- April 23, 1978; Denver Art Museum, May 26-July 30, 1978; William Rockhill Nelson Gallery, Kansas City, September 15- October 29, 1978, and is included in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, The Sensuous Immortals. It is also referenced in "Bronzes of Kashmir, by P. Pal (Graz, 1975, p.233. cat. no. 92)

Lot 283 has an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $56,250.

Angel


Lot 283, "A Copper Alloy Figure of Garuda," India, Himachal Pradesh or Chamba, 16th/17th century


Ganga, left, Picchvai of Shrinathji, right


Left: Lot 275, "A Red Sandstone Figure of Ganga," Central India, 11th to 12th century; Center: Lot 334," Picchvai of Shrinathji Being Worshipped at Sharadpurnima," India, Nathdwara, circa 1880

Lot 275, "A Red Sandstone Figure of Ganga,"a beautiful river goddess carved in Central India in the 11th to 12th century is shown above with two black stone carvings from the Pala period (12th century), and Lot 334, "Picchavai of Shrinathji Being Worshipped at Sharadpurnima," from India. The origin of the river goddess is described in Sotheby's catalogue for this sale:

"The pesonification of the river gods and goddesses can be traced to prehistoric time, both in surviving texts and material culture. The river Ganga holds a special venerated status among Hindus, as the location of several sacred sites. The Ganga is associated with both purification and death. Believers immerse themselves in the holy water to wash away their sins and liberate themselves from the cycle of life and death. Human ashes are also immersed in the river for the same reason. Over time different Hindu traditions and texts assimilated the river into their belief system by appropriating it in the form of a Goddess whose legends are extant in Hindu mythology."

Lot 275, "A Red Sandstone Figure of Ganga" has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for $32,500, well above its high estimate.

Lot 334, "Picchvai of Shrinathji Being Worshipped at Sharadpurnima" has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for $10,000.


Maharaja Ram Singh



Lot 323, Maharaja Ram Singh With Courtiers," India, Kotah, circa 1830

 
The Rajputs are famous for their  valour, and there are many paintings of them strutting their stuff on the battlefield. However, the  beautiful Indian miniature  illustrated above depicts  the  Rajput "Maharaja Ram Singh With Courtiers" not in combat but in the comfort and luxury of his palace, seated on Persian rugs, under an ornate canopy. These gorgeous decorative accoutrements are accompanied by a superbly crafted sword, within easy reach of rulers that were constantly threatened by invaders and usurpers to the throne, usually their own family members. Beautifully executed in opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper, Lot 323 depicts the Maharaja aged thirty. Sotheby's catalogue for this sale references a sepia-toned photograph of him by the photographers Johnston and Hoffman, circa 1887, in the collection of the British Library, when he was much older, with sword and shield, seated against an oversized bolster, with a waistband styled like the one in this miniature: "Maharao Maharaja Ram Singh (b.1811-1889) was according to James Tod in his Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan 'the most conservative prince in conservative Rajputana and a grand specimen of a true Rajput gentleman' (see Vol.3 P.1520 note 2). He was a member of the Hara family of the great Chauhan Rajput clan who inhabited the region around Bundi for centuries and upon whose rulers Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah I conferred the honorific title 'maharao' for great service to the Mughal Empire." (Sotheby's catalogue for this sale).

Lot 323, "Maharajah Ram Singh With Courtiers" has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $37,500.


Bhagavad Purana

Lot 213, "An Illustration to The Bhagavad Purana: Krishna and Balarama Battle Jarasandha," Nepal, circa 1750

Chaos and bloodshed caused by war is depicted in Lot 213, "An Illustration to The Bhagavad Purana: Krishna and Balarama Battle Jarasandha," a Nepalese miniature painting, illustrated above. Lot 213 has an estimate of $8,000 to $10,000. It sold for $8,750.

Lot 299, "A Jain Cosmic Diagram of Adhaidvipa," created in Gujarat or Rajasthan in the 17th to 18th century is painted on cloth, and has an estimate of $8,000 to $10,000. It sold for $10,000.


Jain cosmic diagram

Lot 299, "A Jain Cosmic Diagram of Adhaidvipa," India, gujarat or Rajasthan, 17th to 18th century



Bjagavad Purana: Krishna and Balarama Battle Jarasandha


Lot 307, "A Yogini At Her Herimtage Being Visited By Devotees," India, Kishangarh, circa 1720-40

Lot 307, "A Yogini At Her Hermitage Being Visited by Devotees," India, Kishangarh," is a beautiful work of art rendered in opaque watercolour heightened with gold on paper that references India's legendary spiritualism and mysticism - and nature in all its magnificence. The yogini is clothed in the saffron robes of the holy men and women of India,and is being offered various tributes by her devotees. Although yoginis are referenced in texts, they are not often depicted in paintings: "Her attire and ornaments suggest a noble descent. She is shown leaning on a plank tied to the tree - implying a vow to stand on her feet for a long period of time, a known yogic feat, She is giving audience to a varied group of devotees. Under the tree and close to her are seated two other ascetics. Her hermitage is located on the river bank. The marbled courtyard where she stands is surrounded by pits with smoldering embers of coal..." (Sotheby's catalogue for this sale)

Lot 307 has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $27,500.


Durga Mahishasuramardini

Lot 204, "A Gilt Copper Figure of Durga Mahishasuramardini," Nepal, circa 13th century


Stele of Indra and Indrani

Lot 212, "A Polychromed Wood Stele of Indra and Indrani," Nepal, circa 17th century

Two fine sculptures from Nepal are illustrated above, one cast in the 13th century, the other carved circa 17th century. Lot 212 is a tender depiction of "A Polychromed Wood Stele of Indra and Indrani, with an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. This beautiful piece sold for $50,000, well over its high estimate.

Lot 204, "A Gilt Copper Figure of Durga Mahishasuramardini," is a spectacularly fierce depiction of Durga - a female warrior goddess: "This scene depicts the culminating and most important episode of the Devi Mahatmya, during which the goddess slays the demon in buffalo form. The artist has successfully achieved a balance between the violence of the actual episode and and the splendour of victory for which the goddess is celebrated. As explained by art historian Pratapaditya Pal, the primary function of these sculptures is religious and hieratic. Nepalese artisans in the Malla period captured the idea of energetic movement: the use of the alidha pose highlights the active nature of the god. The 'heroic diagonal' was employed in India and Nepal to denote militant deities, especially for free-standing sculptures...The goddess is shown witha  a calm face, while her extended arms and strong posture depict her strength in the aftermath of the event. The vertical body of the buffalo, its limp head angularly perched on the stone, exaggerates the violence with which the goddess would have rendered the beast lifeless. It is the physical strength, theatrical pose and heroic victory that express the dramatic tension and energy of combat." (Sotheby's catalogue for this sale)

Lot 204 has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It passed, which is difficult to understand. It is a superb piece.


Parvati

Lot 277, "A Copper Alloy Figure of Parvati," India, Chola period, 11th century

Chola bronzes are famous, and Lot 277, "A Copper Alloy Figure of Parvati,"  has both beauty and great provenance: "It was first acquired by the late Dr. J.R. Belmont, a visionary collector who amassed one of the pre-eminent collections of Indian sculpture and miniature paintings in Europe in the 1950s. From 1960-70, part of the Belmont collection, inlcuding the present work, passed into the care of the Pan Asian Collection formed by the late Christian Humann. Humann assembled one of the largest and finest holdings of South and Southeast Asian art in the world. In 1982 part of the Pan Asian Collection was acquired by Robert H. Ellsworth, another legendary connoisseur, who incorporated the works into his expansive collection of Chinese, Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art..." (Sotheby's catalogue for this sale)

 The catalogue continues: "...the current work was originally part of a pair, together with its companion figure of Shiva Nataraja, or King of Dancers. This figure of Shiva Nataraja was gifted to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1987 (accession no.1987.80.1, see image right) by Mr. Ellsworth, and is currently on view in Gallery 240." It is illustrated in the catalogue.


Lot 277 has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000. It sold for $137,000.

Wrestler's weight

Lot 335, "A Mottled Black Basalt Wrestler's Weight," India, Tamil Nadu, late 17th to early 18th century

 Lot 335, "A Mottled Black Basalt Wrestler's Weight," crafted in Tamil Nadu in the late 17th to early 18th century looks like contemporary sculpture. There is a marvellous Company School Painting of a Wrestler (detail) in the catalogue, showing a wrestler weilding two of these formidable looking objects high above his head. Sotheby's catalogue for this sale notes: "Nals were the Indian equivalent of western free weights and helped develop arm, shoulder, and back strength. They were lifted from the ground with one or both hands above the head in a smooth motion. India is known for its long history of wrestling traditions; wrestling or kushti was also important as it was incorporated into many religious texts going back thousands of years; even toda, wrestling gyms are one of the few places where Hindu men from different castes are considered equals, aside from bodybuilding, practictioners emphasise a life of discipline and celibacy..."

Lot 335 has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for
$27,500.

The Sotheby's Indian and Southeast Asian Art sale totaled $4,438,815.

There was so much to admire in Sotheby's galleries, but the Tibetan thangka from Ngor Monastary depicting "Sachen Kunga Nyingpo"in his splendid yellow-gold cloak left a lasting impression. Sotheby's catalogue for this sale notes that the four line inscription along the bottom register of the present work can be freely translated as such:

"Homage to Sakyapa Kunga Nyingpo, the mighty lord of Yoga, who always acts for the welfare of others since he is endowed with great compassion!

We pay homage to and seek refuge in the assembly of deities, headed by the lineage of vajra masters, belonging to the tradition of the master Dombi Heruka. May we be taken into their following at all times!

Let there be good auspices!"

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