Lot: A GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA ATTRIBUTED BY INSCRIPTION TO THE TENTH KARMAPA CHÖYING DORJE Eastern Tibet or Yunnan Province, 17th Century
Auction House: Sotheby's New York
Sale: Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Works of Art Including Property from The Cleveland Museum of Art (N09665)
Lot No.: 223
Estimate: US$200,000 - 300,000
The value of this sculpture relies on its creator – Choying Dorje (1604 - 1674), one of the three most important Lamas in Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He was the 10th Karmapa of the Kagyu school, yet he had to flee Tibet as the Gelug school wanted to hunt him down. Choying Dorje was a talented painter and sculptor, created his own work or art during the exile. Right now, there are only seven sculptures with inscriptions that attribute them to Choying Dorje, and this figure of Avalokiteshvara is one of them.
This sculpture portrays Avalokiteshvara in a form which was popular in Chinese Buddhism during the Sui and the Tang dynasties, and is rare as Choying Dorje was a Lama from Tiber. The other inscribed example of Avalokiteshvara, which has a very similar style, yet smaller in size, is now in the Palace Museum, Beijing. The largest difference between these two sculptures is the position of inscription. On the Palace Museum one, it is on the back of the robe. One this one, the inscription is around the base (the photo above). Choying Dorje had stayed in Yunnan during his exile, it is highly possible that he got to know Chinese Buddhism there, then crafted these two sculptures.
Recent years, people started noticing the name of Choying Dorje, and also his work of art. A 14.3cm high copper composite figure of Vajrapani and Kubera (the photo above), which is also attributed by inscription of Choying Dorje, was auctioned at Hong Kong Bonhams. The style of it sparked a debate among experts and Buddhist art lovers, and this sculpture was sold for HK$15,060,000 (buyer's premium included) at last. As this Avalokiteshvara sculpture is beautifully crafted and rare, it would undoubtedly be the conversation piece of this auction.
Judging from its estimation, we believe that bidding atmosphere would be quite competitive.