HK$16m Tibetan Figure of Padmapani Lokeshvara to Lead Bonhams’ Images of Devotion

Bonhams Hong Kong unveiled highlights from Images of Devotion, offering a diverse array of Buddhist art from as far as 2nd-century Northern India to the 19th-century Mongolia. During the media preview, Edward Wilkinson, Bonhams Global Head of Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art, introduced highlights of the sale, including a gilt copper alloy figure of Padmapani Lokeshvara from 15th century Tibet and an inscribed brass alloy figure of standing Buddha from the ancient region of Gandhara.

Edward Wilkinson, Bonhams Global Head of Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art

The cover lot of the sale is a gilt copper alloy figure of Padmapani Lokeshvara from 15th century Tibet, which is expected to fetch HK$16m - 20m (US$2.05m - 2.56m). This gilded sculpture of standing Padmapani Lokeshvara follows a foreign, ancient mode of representing the bodhisattva imported to Tibet. Itinerant Newari craftsmen from the Kathmandu Valley achieved the most accomplished renditions of the standing bodhisattva form in cast bronze. Following the ascent of wealth and patronage in Central Tibet around the beginning of the 15th century, Newars were commissioned by Tibetan patrons for major artistic projects. The present sculpture arises from such circumstances.

The present sculpture's use of silver inlay is also quite distinct from purer Nepalese examples. The artist has incorporated beaded silver ware seamlessly in the Avalokiteshvara's crown, necklace, belt, and most prominently in the sacred thread (ratnopavita) traversing his torso and thighs. Tibetan's fondness for inlay almost certainly stemmed from their appreciation for fine Kashmir and Pala bronzes.

The second top lot is a brass alloy figure of standing Buddha from the ancient region of Gandhara, circa 6th century. Gandhara was an ancient kingdom of Peshawar Vallery, extending between the Swat valley and Potohar plateau regions of Pakistan as well as the Jalalabad district of northeastern Afghanistan. Famed for its local tradition of Gandhara (Greco-Buddhist) Art, Gandhara attained its height from the 1st century to the 5th century under the Kushan Empire.

Even though the right hand of the figure is damaged, this 28cm-tall figure of standing Buddha is in a well-preserved condition overall after thousands of year. What makes this figure more unique is that the figure is inscribed with a dedication in punched Brahmi on the base, which reads "This is the pious gift of the Sakya monk an image of the Buddha by Yaso-Nandini [...] together with mother and father, most difficult [....] Buddha, by the teacher." This beautiful figure is estimated at HK$15m - 20m (US$1.92m-2.56m).

The sale also offers other outstanding Buddhist art from the ancient region of Gandhara, including two colossal pieces from the 4th-5th century, both valued at HK$3m - 5m (US$380,000 - 640,000). The first one is a polychromed stucco head of Buddha, with a remarkable height of 61cm. It presents one of the earliest and most influential sculptural traditions representing Buddha in human form, and bespeaks these thriving centres of Buddhism in the first half of the first millennium CE.

Whereas most Gandharan stucco sculptures have suffered far more from exposure to the elements and political changes in Central Asia over two millennia, the face's impeccably smooth surface is preserved in its near original glory. This head is perhaps the only one of two or three massive examples surviving in such excellent condition.

Another extraordinary Gandhara Buddhist art that offered at the sale is a stucco panel of Buddha surrounded by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, with a height of 111cm and a width of 156.5cm. Depicted at the centre of the panel is Buddha in meditation, who is wearing a heavy pleated robe draped naturalistically over his body, and his hair is moulded in wavy locks before a nimbus. The remaining two sections on either side display twenty-three buddhas and bodhisattvas emanating from him, each modelled differently from the other in a joyous congregation. The subject matter of showing other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas emanating from a principal Buddha is rarely seen, thus eagerly discussed by scholars.

The first interpretation proposed by scholars in 1909 sees the emanating buddhas representing Shakyamuni's 'Great Miracle at Sravasti', an episode from his life story where he multiplied his form a million-fold in front of dumfounded critics from prevailing philosophical schools. More recently, scholars have reinterpreted the scene, positing that it depicts either Shakyamuni or Amitabha joined by congregations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in their celestial abodes. They emphasize that such emanating scenes are among the clearest early artistic representations of the expansive worldview of Mahayana Buddhism.

Top lots from Images of Devotion

A Gilt Copper Alloy Figure of Padmapani Lokeshvara
Tibet, circa 1400

Lot no.: 43
Height: 55cm (including lotus stem)

  • Benny Rustenberg, Hong Kong, 1998
  • Private European Collection

Estimate: HK$16,000,000 -20,000,000

An Inscribed Brass Alloy Figure of Standing Buddha
Ancient Region of Gandhara, Circa 6th Century

Lot no.: 1
Height: 11cm

  • Acquired in the U.S. from a Private Collection, 1979
  • Private American Trust

Estimate: HK$15,000,000 -20,000,000

A Gilt Copper Alloy Figure of Buddha
Tibet, 15th Century

Lot no.: 54
Height: 33.5cm
Provenance: The Nyingjei Lam Collection
Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - 12,000,000

A Copper Alloy Figure of Amitayus
Tibet, 13th/14th Century

Lot no.: 34
Height: 47.7cm
Estimate: HK$7,000,000 - 9,000,000

A Gilt Copper Alloy Figure of Jangchub Gyaltsen
Tibet, 16th Century

Lot no.: 61
Height: 25.5cm
Provenance: Private European Collection
Estimate: HK$3,500,000 - 4,500,000

A Blackground Thangka of Panjarnata Mahakala Central
Tibet, 18th Century

Lot no.: 72
Size: 71 x 65cm (image); 116 x 82 cm (with silks)

  • Belgian ambassador to China, early 20th century
  • Henri Kamer, New York, circa 1970s
  • Private New England Collection

Estimate: HK$3,200,000 - 4,800,000

A Thirty-three-deity Ushnishavijaya Mandala
Tibet Ngor Monastery, Circa 1500-50

Lot no.: 49
Size: 50.9 cm x 44.2 cm (image); 85.2 x 48.4 cm (with silks)

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

Estimate: HK$3,200,000 - 4,000,000

A Polychromed Stucco Head of Buddha
Ancient Region of Gandhara, Circa 4th/5th Century

Lot no.: 8
Height: 61 cm

  • Spink & Son, Ltd., London, 1990
  • The Elizabeth and Willard Clark Collection, California

Estimate: HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000

A Stucco Panel of Buddha Surrounded by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
Ancient Region of Gandhara, 4th/5th Century

Lot no.: 9
Size: 111cm (height) x 156.5cm (width)

  • Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1990
  • The Elizabeth and Willard Clark Collection, California

Estimate: HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000

Auction details
Auction house: Bonhams Hong Kong
Sale: Images of Devotion
Lots offered: 97
27 September - 1 October
10am - 7pm
2 October
10am - 5pm
Auction date: 2 October 2018
6 pm
Location: Suite 2001, One Pacific Place