Christe’s Asia Week Fall 2019: Highlights from Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Works of Art

Christie’s Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Works of Art will take place on 11 September, featuring important Sri Lankan artwork, significant Himalayan material and Indian paintings. Here is an overview of the top three lots of the sale.

Leading the sale is a gilt-bronze figure of Vajrasattva, Tibet, 14th-15th century, valued at US$600,000-800,000. The gilt-bronze figure of Vajrasattva depicted here is a primordial buddha as well as a highly-accomplished bodhisattva, with a perfected understanding of ultimate truth. This important Tibetan Buddhist deity is the primary and ceaseless source of Vajrayana teachings. He manifests in the sambhogakaya or celestial form or to assist in liberating all sentient beings from the undesirable cycle of rebirth in samsara.

This image of Vajrasattva is an exemplar of a mature Tibetan style inspired by Nepalese models. The figure’s sharp aquline nose, muscular upper body, cinched waist, and foliate-style ornamentation reveal the influence of a sculptural style established by the Newars, the indigenous inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley. The Kathmandu Valley holds a unique geographic position conducive to the proliferation of its artistic commodities. In Tibet, this artistry was highly sought after from the nascent years of Buddhism’s import to Tibet.

This gilt-bronze figure of Buddha Ratnasambhava, Nepal, 17th-18th century, is expected to fetch US$400,000-600,000. Ratnasambhava is a ubiquitously represented tathagata associated with the South. Ratnasambhava is the father of the Jewel family of Vajrayana Buddhist deities, associated with the element of earth, and the enlightened activity of equanimity. The deity depicted in the figure can be identified as Buddha Ratnasambhava as its right hand turned towards the observer in the gesture of granting wish or varadamudra.

According to Christie’s specialist, the figure was made some time between the 17th and 18th centuries by the renowned Newar artisans of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. The Newar have been making Buddhist statues since at least the sixth century, transmitting deep iconographical knowledge gleaned from sacred texts through the generation.

The Newar create their sculptures using the lost-wax technique. It involves coating a wax model in clay mixed with dung and rice husks, then firing it to melt the wax and leave a hollow cast into which molten bronze can be poured.

Ratnasambhava is one of the five Tathagata or meditation buddhas, beside Akshobya of the East, Amitabha of the West, Amoghasiddhi of the North, and Vairochana of the Central direction. Typically Tathagata buddhas would have been commissioned as a set, so it’s likely that this sculpture was created in a set of five.

Estimated at US$300,000-500,000, a bronze figure of UMA depicts the consort and shakti of Shiv. In the sculptural traditions of South India, images of Uma and her consort Shiva are considered some of the most important for religious rites. In order for Shiva to bestow his beneficence upon the worshipper, Uma must also be present.

Uma is considered the epitome of feminine perfection and assumes multiple identities as a young maiden, wife and mother. The figure demonstrates her sensuous femininity through her dynamic pose, the drapery of her garment and her delicately stylized jewelry. In contrast to the languid forms of the early Chola period, bronzes of the late Chola, such as the present lot, show a proclivity towards muscular and exaggerated physiques, as well as great attention to the intricate details of jewelry, drapery, and bodily features.

Top three lots

A Large and Magnificent Gilt-bronze Figure of Vajrasattva
Tibet, 14th-15th Century

Lot no.: 349
Height: 58.7cm

  • Private European Collection.
  • Acquired by the present owner from the above, 23 November 1985.

Estimate: US$600,000-800,000

A Rare Gilt-bronze Figure of Buddha Ratnasambhava
Nepal, 17th-18th Century

Lot no.: 371
Height: 45.9cm
Provenance: Private colletion, Germany, by 1973; thence by descent.
Estimate: US$400,000-600,000

A Large and Important Bronze Figure of Uma
South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola Period, 13th Century

Lot no.: 327
Height: 64.1cm

  • Collection of Mrs. Florence Sutherland Orr (1856-1948), acquired in Chennai (now Madras), India.
  • Christie's New York, 19 March 2013, lot 229.

Estimate: US$300,000-500,000

Auction details

Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Works of Art
Date: 11 September 2019|2pm
Lots offered: 120