Buddha Figure from the Lost Khasa Malla Kingdom Fetches US$1.4m at Bonhams New York

Bonhams kicked off Asia Week auctions in New York yesterday with three sales, including its outstanding Indian, Himalaya & Southeast Asian Art. Leading the sale is a Gilt Copper Alloy Figure of Shakyamuni Buddha from the lost Khasa Malla kingdom of Western Tibet, dating 13th-14th century, which fetched US$1.39m with buyer’s premium included.

Sinja Valley, capital of Khasa Mallas

Khasa Malla, popularly known as Khasa Kingdom, was a kingdom established in present-day Nepal around the 10th century. The Khasa Malla king ruled western parts of Nepal during the 11th-14th century. Most extant examples from the period are metal sculptures.

The present lot was a Gilt Copper Alloy Figure of Shakyamuni Buddha from the 13th-14 century, corresponding to the end of the lost Khasa Malla kingdom. The figure is carved in a common iconic image of Buddha sitting in meditation with his left palm upright in his lap, and his right hand in Bhūmisparśa Mudrā, a gesture of touching the earth.

The image above shows the present Khasa Malla sculpture with double-lobed petals incised with an eyelash motif on the base; the image below shows a more commonly seen lotus base with a different design of petals

Exemplary of the Khasa Malla tradition, the back of the sculpture's base is plain and painted with red pigment. The double-lotus band across the front and sides, however, has plump, double-lobed petals incised with an eyelash motif.

The second most expensive price, US$12.1m (with buyer’s premium included), was realized by a Gilt Copper Alloy Figure of Avalokiteshvara Sahasrabhuja Ekadasamukha from Central Tibet, circa 1430.

Ekādaśamukha, portrayed as a deity with eleven heads and eight arms (or thousand arms in the depiction of Sahasrabhuja), is believed to be one of the incarnations of Avalokiteshvara. Its primary hands in Anjali mudra while the remaining hands in Varada mudra, with a ‘wisdom-eye’ in the palm of each of their hands.

Looking at the figure, three principal heads, in peaceful countenances, are surmounted by seven heads in three tiers, including a wrathful face on the 10th. The wrathful forms reflect Avalokiteshvara’s ability to ward off evil with comparable strength. At the top is the peaceful Buddha Amitabha.

The third top lot was a smaller sculpture, a 18cm-tall Silver Inlaid Copper Alloy Figure of Vairocanaonly. Dating back to Swat Valley, 8th-9th century, the figure sold for US$732,500 with buyer’s premium included.

The Swat (image above), a valley and an administrative district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, served as a major centre of early Buddhist thought as part of the Gandhara kingdom.

In the conception of the Five Wisdom Buddhas of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, Vairocana is at the centre as the principal deity. The Five Wisdom Buddhas represent five qualities: the wisdom of the essence of the dharma-realm meditation mudra, the wisdom of perfect practice, the wisdom of observation, the wisdom of equanimity, and the wisdom of reflection.


Top three lots

A Gilt Copper Alloy Figure of Shakyamuni Buddha
Khasa Malla, 13th/14th Century

Lot no.: 3019
Height: 58.5cm

  • Rossi & Rossi, Hong Kong, 2004
  • Private Asian Collection

Estimate: US$1,200,000 - 1,600,000
Price realized: US$1,392,500

A Gilt Copper Alloy Figure of Avalokiteshvara Sahasrabhuja Ekadasamukha
By Sonam Gyaltsen (a.15th Century), Central Tibet, Circa 1430

Lot no.: 3033
Height: 67.7cm

  • Oriental Antiques Ltd, London, by 1968
  • Sotheby's, London, 9 May 1977, lot 167
  • Private English Collection, 1977-2014

Estimate: US$1,000,000 - 1,500,000
Price realized: US$1,212,500

A Silver Inlaid Copper Alloy Figure of Vairocana
Swat Valley, 8th/9th Century

Lot no.: 3009
Height: 17.8cm

  • Collection of Wali Sahib of Swat before 1962
  • Private US Collection, 1970s

Estimate: US$450,000 - 650,000
Price realized: US$732,500

Auction details
Auction house: Bonhams New York
Sale: Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art
Auction date: 2018/3/19