Stay Calm and Collected Through Buddhist Works of Art

Bonhams has unveiled a selection of Buddhist and Himalayan devotional, ritual and decorative objects of veneration, which are set to go under the hammer in the upcoming New York Asia Week, as well as the “Images of Devotion” sale in Hong Kong in April. 

Showcasing the key virtues of benevolence and compassion, many of the exemplary examples also symbolize health, longevity, and protection. Sacred values aside, the collection also holds great cultural and religious significance to anchor our mind amid the turmoil of the pandemic. 

Here are some highlights of the sales:


A Thirty-three-deity Ushnishavijaya Mandala
Tebet, Ngor monastery, circa 1500-1550
Himalayan Art Resources item no.88540
Dimensions: (Image: 50.9 x 44.2 cm; With silks: 85.2 x 48.4 cm)

  • Private European Collection  
  • Rossi and Rossi Ltd, London, 2001  
  • Carlton Rochell Asian Art, New York, 2003  
  • Private Collection, New York   

Estimate: US$200,000 - 300,000


The thangka, which often serves as a mediational tool in Buddhst practice, depicts the “wisdom goddess,” Ushnishavijaya of three faces in the center. Her eight radiating arms hold a lotus-borne red Amitabha, a bow and arrow, a vase of plenty, a lasso, and display gestures of reassurance (abhaya mudra) and wish-granting (varada mudra) to promote longevity. 

The present Tibetan mandala, expected to fetch between US$200,000 to 300,000, offers a bird’s-eye view of Ushnishavijaya’s palace, which is also surrounded by 32 deities, each reclining against the lotus petals. Outside of the wheel of Dharma - which symbolizes Shakyamuni Buddha's wisdom, alternating figures of Amitayus and Amitabha populate the painting's corners as well as the top and bottom registers. According to the auction house, this particular mandala likely forms the final painting of a set of approximately 44, based on the 11th-century Vajravali of Abhayakaragupta, a Buddhist monk and tantric master. 


A Gilt Copper Alloy Figure of Lokeshvara Padmapani
Nepal, 12th/13th Century
Himalayan Art Resources item no.16915
Height: 23.1 cm 

  • Doris Weiner Gallery, Madison Avenue, New York (label on base)
  • Private Californian Collection

Estimate: US$100,000 - 150,000

Intimately scaled and sensuously modeled, the present lot is a depiction of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, “the lord who looks upon the world.” The benevolent gaze and facial features offer calmness. And the lotus in bloom by his left shoulder symbolizes every being's potential to achieve enlightenment despite their past.

Sculpted by the Newars, Nepalian artisans from Kathmandu Valley, the present sculpture depicts one of Himalayan art’s signature icons, a standing bodhisattva in a graceful pose, with his right hand in the boon-granting gesture. A similar example now resides in the Rubin Museum of Arts in New York.


A Schist Panel of Maitreya in Tushita Heaven
Ancient region of Gandhara, circa 3rd century
Dimensions: 22 x 38 cm

  • Sotheby's, London, June, 5 1989, lot 1 (front cover)
  • Bumper Development Corporation Collection, Canada, 1989-2017
  • On loan to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, 1989-2015

Estimate: US$30,000 - 50,000


The schist panel depicts Maitreya, regarded as the “future buddha," now abiding in Tushita heaven as a bodhisattva. Seated under a baldachin fanned by two putti, who stand on the capitals of columns rising behind a pair of lions protecting his throne, Maitreya signifies rebirth and new beginnings.


A Gilt Copper Alloy Figure Of Cundi (Zhunti Guanyin)
Late Ming to early Qing dynasty (17th century)
Himalayan Art Resources item no.16911
Height: 20.3 cm

  • Baron von Mumins Collection, Lhasa, 1929  
  • Philip Goldman Collection, London 
  • Sotheby's, New York, March 21, 2002, lot 153 
  • Private West Coast Collection 

Estimate: US$60,000 - 80,000


Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin) is the most popularly worshipped bodhisattva in Chinese Buddhism. Presented in a form known as Cundi Avalokiteshvara (Zhunti Guanyin) - “The Goddess of the Seventy Million Buddhas,” the bodhisattva’s 18 arms symbolize the 18 paths of attaining Buddhahood described in the Cundi Dharani incantation. Cundi is also invoked to purify karma, attract resources, grant protection, and promote an auspicious rebirth. 

A Gilt Lacquer and Polychrome Wood Panel with A Protector Goddess
Nepal, circa 13th/ 14th century
Himalayan Art Resources item no.30869
Dimensions: 22.5 x 40 cm

  • Plum Blossoms Gallery, Hong Kong, 2000s
  • Mehmet Hassan Asian Art, Bangkok
  • Private American Collection

Estimate: US$16,000 - 22,000


The panel depicts one of the Pancha Raksha Goddesses, or "Five Protectors". Each of deities personifies a sacred mantra from the Buddhist texts (sutras) that promotes worldly welfare and happiness. There are countless variations in how the Pancha Raksha are depicted. The present one, with the body of an ogre with six arms and three heads, the primary head consuming a snake, symbolizing her transmogrification of physical and spiritual poisons. 


Auction details:

Auction house: Bonhams New York

Sale: Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art

Date: March 16, 2021 | 6pm (EST)

A Chinese Gilded Bronze Bhaiṣajyaguru
Tibet, 15th century
Height: 27 cm
Estimate: HK$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 (US$257,824 - 386,737)

Bhaishajyaguru, the “Medicine Buddha,” is worshipped in Vajrayana and Mahayana Buddhism to overcome physical, mental, and spiritual sickness. His left hand holds a medicine jar, and his right hand extends in a wish-granting gesture while holding a myrobalan plant.

The treatment of the robes worn by Bhaishajyaguru in this present lot - the dramatic pleats falling the left shoulder, the tight ruffles around the waist, as well as the rounded folds across the legs, suggests a distinctive Tibeto-Chinese styles, highly-prevalent during the Xuande reign (1425-1435). A number of bronzes, similar to the present one, was gifted to Tibetan hierarchs and monasteries during that period, which subsequently influenced how Buddhist sulptures were produced in Tibet. 


Auction house: Bonhams Hong Kong

Sale: Images of Devotion

Date: April 21, 2021