Christie’s Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art Led by US$3.6m Buddha Shakyamuni Figure from Tibet

Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art took place at Christie’s New York and the centerpiece was a Buddhist figure featured on the catalogue’s cover. A Silver Inlaid Gilt Bronze Figure of Buddha Shakyamuni from Tibet, circa 1400, sold for US$3.6m.

The present lot offered at Christie's New York (on the left) has a ‘brother’ figure (on the right), which sold for HK$50m (US$6.3m) at Hong Kong spring sales last year.

Another example similar to the present one, a Gilt-bronze and Silver-inlaid Seat Figure of Buddha Shakyamuni from Tibet, sold for HK$50m (US$6.3m) at Christie’s Hong Kong last spring. This current one, also made in Tibet, shares striking resemblances to the one in Hong Kong, possibly made by the same group of Tibetan craftsmen.

They both depict Shakyamuni Buddha seated in vajraparyankasana, the classical diamond posture, recalling the seminal moment when he attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree. His right hand is in bhumisparsha mudra, earth-touching gesture. His elongated earlobes, weighed down by the heavy earrings of his former princely life, represent his rejection of worldly goods.

The present lot offered at New York started at an opening bid of US$650,000 and was hammered down at US$3m after receiving 27 bid increments. It sold for US$3.6m (premium included) to a Chinese collector, far surpassing its estimate US$1m - 2m.

The second top lot at the sale was a Black Stone Stele of Durga Mahishasuramardini, Northern India, Pala Period, late 10th or early 11th century. It was hammered down for US$750,000, below its estimate US$800,000. It sold for US$912,500.

Durga, also known as Devi or Shakti, is a warrior goddess who combats evils and demonic forces. She is often depicted in Hindu sculpture atop a tiger or lion, with many arms each carrying a weapon. The present lot – a 131cm-tall figure of Durga, in her manifestation as Mahishasuramardini, slayer of the powerful buffalo – tells the story of a famous battle between the deity and Mahishasura.

Ranked on the third spot was a figure also made of black stone. A Black Stone Stele of Vishnu from Central or Western India, the 11th-12th century, sold for US$420,500 with premium included. The present lot depicts Vishnu standing in powerful samabhanga, holding a mace and chakra in his upper hands and a conch shell and possibly lotus bud in his lower hands. The mace represents Vishnu’s mental and physical strength; the chakra symbolizes the mind; the sound produced from the conch represents the primeval sound of creation; and the lotus flower is an example of glorious existence and liberation.

A Hindu temple dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator, the Preserver, and the Transformer.

Vishnu, one of the principal deities of Hinduism, is the Preserver in the Hindu trinity (Trimurti), alongside Brahma (the Creator) and Shiva (the Transformer).


Top three lots

A Large and Important Silver-inlaid Gilt Bronze Figure of Buddha Shakyamuni
Tibet, Circa 1400

Lot no.: 306
Height: 40.8cm
Hong Kong art market, 1990s.
Christie's New York, 21 March 2001, lot 78.
Estimate: US$1,000,000 - 2,000,000
Price realized: US$3,612,500

A Black Stone Stele of Durga Mahishasuramardini
Northeast India, Pala Period, Late 10th/early 11th Century

Lot no.: 317
Height: 131cm

  • Private collection, Germany, since 1970, by repute.
  • Consigned to Spink & Son, London, in July 1986.
  • New York art market.
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above on 2 January 2007.

Estimate: US$800,000 - 1,200,000
Price realized: US$912,500

A Black Stone Stele of Vishnu
Central or Western India, 11th-12th century

Lot no.: 316
Height: 99cm

  • Private collection, Switzerland, 1972.
  • New York art market.
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above on 22 June 2006.

Estimate: US$200,000 - 300,000
Price realized: US$420,500

Auction summary

Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art
Sale date: 2018/3/21
Lots offered: 53
Unsold: 39
Unsold: 14
Sold by lots: 74%
Sale total: US$6,528,000