Thu, 29th Sep 2022 13:00

DAY 1 - TWO-DAY AUCTION - Fine Chinese Art / 中國藝術集珍 / Buddhism & Hinduism

 
Lot 220
 

220

A MONUMENTAL AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT SANDSTONE FIGURE OF BUDDHA, PRE-ANGKOR PERIOD

Starting price
€50,000
Estimate
€100,000
 

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Lot details

Mekong Delta, present-day Cambodia and Vietnam, 6th-7th century. Superbly carved standing with each foot on a separate lotus dais, wearing a diaphanous sanghati, the folds elegantly draped over his left shoulder and elbow, gathered at the ankles. The serene face sensitively drawn with heavy-lidded eyes, the sinuous lids and round pupils neatly incised, gently arched brows, and full lips, flanked by long pendulous earlobes, the hair arranged in snail-shell curls surmounted by a tall ushnisha.

Provenance: From a notable collector in London, United Kingdom.
Condition: Magnificent condition, commensurate with age. Extensive wear, encrustations, losses, signs of weathering and erosion, minor nicks, cracks and scratches. Fine, naturally grown patina overall.

Dimensions: Height of figure excluding base and tang: 146.5 cm. Height of figure including tang, but excluding base: 190 cm. Height including base: 196 cm.

The youthful-looking Buddha presents an elegant image that acts as a metaphor for his spiritual perfection. He stands on two lotus flowers, which probably identifies him as one of the esoteric Buddhas, depicted in Nirvana or another of the heavenly realms. This is the serene eternal state of one who is removed from the passage of time and the emotional issues of the human sphere. He has caused the lotuses to bloom and as they support his weightless form, they symbolize his purity of thought.

The earliest stone sculptures of the region were created in the Mekong Delta, now shared by Cambodia and Vietnam, where Indian trading communities introduced their own Buddhist and Hindu beliefs. Contacts with regions to the north and China were also strengthened by trade. This Buddha retains elements of form that are associated with India while the two lotuses, rather than one, on which he stands indicate a Chinese influence. His appearance has been transformed by the introduction of a purely regional aesthetic, however. Separated from the South Asian sangha (religious establishment), local devotees came to see the Buddhist faith as their own and consequently endorsed their beliefs with images resembling themselves.

Buddhism had reached Southeast Asia by the 1st century AD, largely thanks to its popularity amongst Indian merchants who established trading communities around the Mekong Delta. They initially sourced gold in the region but found other rare commodities such as ivory, gemstones, minerals and fine woods for markets both at home and further west. As a result, the Mekong Delta became part of a wider trading network linking the China Seas with the Roman Empire. There are epigraphical accounts describing the journeys on merchant ships of Buddhist missionaries from southern India and Sri Lanka, but the earliest visual record of stone sculptures indicates that evangelists from northern India and possibly Gandhara and China were also active in the region.

International trading predated the establishment of diplomatic links between the rulers of the Mekong Delta with China in the 3rd century and various Indian kings in the 4th century. Indian and to a lesser extent Chinese culture gradually infiltrated the region’s hierarchy and while the higher echelons were attracted to the Buddhist and Hindu faiths, the vast majority of the people maintained their traditional beliefs.

A number of cities linked by canals existed in the Delta region, including the extensive sites of Oc Eo, Phnom Da, and Angkor Borei, which may have been autonomous principalities or part of a confederation. Along with the adjacent Phnom Da, Angkor Borei was a notable ritual center; its influence outlived the eclipse of Funan, perhaps through association with an ancestral cult. Buddhism and Hinduism had a unifying effect to some extent but within the region, devotees only adopted those aspects of the Indian faiths that were relevant to their needs; these probably varied from place to place. It is possible that the Buddha and Hindu gods were honored with temples and statues, emulating those of India, in order to bolster the political or social status of their Southeast Asian adherents.

Chinese writers left a number of accounts describing the kingdom of Funan in the Mekong Delta, that led French scholars of the 19th and early 20th centuries to conclude that it was a great power whose influence stretched across much of Southeast Asia. During the last thirty years, however, an intensive amount of archaeological investigation in Southeast Asia has led to a reappraisal of the work carried out by the Ecole Française d’Extrème Orient during the French colonial period. This in no way diminishes the achievement of archaeologists such as Louis Mallaret, historians, for example Paul Pelliot and art historians including Pierre Dupont; rather, it places their work in a different context. The French believed that Funan was politically dominant until the 7th century but scholars now suggest that a number of small rival principalities existed, possibly city states whose strength and influence depended on changing political and economic circumstances. We do not know the names the inhabitants gave their homelands; Funan was a Chinese attempt at recording a local name, possibly ‘Phnom’ (meaning ‘mountain’). Funan may have spread its influence along the coast as far as the Malay Peninsula, but it is more likely that this was through the establishment of trading posts rather than political control. The French believed that a single culture spread through much of mainland Southeast Asia, but this is not strictly accurate. Away from the coast, communities were scattered and remote from one another, although ethnic groups shared certain spiritual ideas concerning village and nature deities.

Expert’s note: For a detailed academic commentary on the present lot, elaborating on the history and art of Funan as well as the evolution of Buddhist images in the Mekong Delta, and showing many further comparisons to examples in private and public collections, please see the lot description on www.zacke.at. To receive a PDF copy of this academic dossier, please refer to the department.

Literature comparison:
Compare a closely related sandstone figure of the Buddha preaching, attributed to Southern Cambodia and dated to the late 7th century, 94 cm high, in the collection of the Musée Guimet, reference number MG18891, and exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century, April 14, 2014–July 27, 2014, cat. no. 44. Compare a related sandstone figure of Avalokiteshvara, also standing on two lotus flowers, attributed to Southern Vietnam and dated second half of the 7th to early 8th century, 188 cm high, in the collection of the Musée Guimet, reference number MA5063, and illustrated ibid., cat. no. 137. Compare a closely related wood figure of Buddha, dated c. 6th century, in the Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City, illustrated by Nancy Tingley, Arts of Ancient Viet Nam: From River Plain to Open Sea, Houston, 2009. Compare a closely related sandstone figure of Buddha, dated to the 7th century, 98.2 cm high, in the National Museum of Cambodia, inventory number Ka.1589.

Auction result comparison:
Type: Related
Auction: Christie’s New York, 20 March 2012, lot 151
Price: USD 338,500 or approx. EUR 423,500 converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing
Description: A sandstone figure of Buddha Shakyamuni, Khmer, Angkor Borei, 9th century
Expert remark: Note that this figure is slightly later and considerably smaller (82.6 cm) than the present lot.

Auction result comparison:
Type: Related
Auction: Christie’s New York, 17 March 2015, lot 35
Price: USD 413,000 or approx. EUR 500,000 converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing
Description: An important stone figure of Buddha, Thailand, Dvaravati period, 8th century
Expert remark: Note that this figure is attributed to Dvaravati, around 600 miles northwest of the Mekong Delta. While Buddhist sculpture of the pre-Angkor period sometimes shares characteristics with contemporaneous Dvaravati art, the present figure's slightly attenuated proportions mark a departure, imbuing the Buddha with a lithe, uplifted quality. Note the slightly smaller size (111.7 cm).

 
 

Mekong Delta, present-day Cambodia and Vietnam, 6th-7th century. Superbly carved standing with each foot on a separate lotus dais, wearing a diaphanous sanghati, the folds elegantly draped over his left shoulder and elbow, gathered at the ankles. The serene face sensitively drawn with heavy-lidded eyes, the sinuous lids and round pupils neatly incised, gently arched brows, and full lips, flanked by long pendulous earlobes, the hair arranged in snail-shell curls surmounted by a tall ushnisha.

Provenance: From a notable collector in London, United Kingdom.
Condition: Magnificent condition, commensurate with age. Extensive wear, encrustations, losses, signs of weathering and erosion, minor nicks, cracks and scratches. Fine, naturally grown patina overall.

Dimensions: Height of figure excluding base and tang: 146.5 cm. Height of figure including tang, but excluding base: 190 cm. Height including base: 196 cm.

The youthful-looking Buddha presents an elegant image that acts as a metaphor for his spiritual perfection. He stands on two lotus flowers, which probably identifies him as one of the esoteric Buddhas, depicted in Nirvana or another of the heavenly realms. This is the serene eternal state of one who is removed from the passage of time and the emotional issues of the human sphere. He has caused the lotuses to bloom and as they support his weightless form, they symbolize his purity of thought.

The earliest stone sculptures of the region were created in the Mekong Delta, now shared by Cambodia and Vietnam, where Indian trading communities introduced their own Buddhist and Hindu beliefs. Contacts with regions to the north and China were also strengthened by trade. This Buddha retains elements of form that are associated with India while the two lotuses, rather than one, on which he stands indicate a Chinese influence. His appearance has been transformed by the introduction of a purely regional aesthetic, however. Separated from the South Asian sangha (religious establishment), local devotees came to see the Buddhist faith as their own and consequently endorsed their beliefs with images resembling themselves.

Buddhism had reached Southeast Asia by the 1st century AD, largely thanks to its popularity amongst Indian merchants who established trading communities around the Mekong Delta. They initially sourced gold in the region but found other rare commodities such as ivory, gemstones, minerals and fine woods for markets both at home and further west. As a result, the Mekong Delta became part of a wider trading network linking the China Seas with the Roman Empire. There are epigraphical accounts describing the journeys on merchant ships of Buddhist missionaries from southern India and Sri Lanka, but the earliest visual record of stone sculptures indicates that evangelists from northern India and possibly Gandhara and China were also active in the region.

International trading predated the establishment of diplomatic links between the rulers of the Mekong Delta with China in the 3rd century and various Indian kings in the 4th century. Indian and to a lesser extent Chinese culture gradually infiltrated the region’s hierarchy and while the higher echelons were attracted to the Buddhist and Hindu faiths, the vast majority of the people maintained their traditional beliefs.

A number of cities linked by canals existed in the Delta region, including the extensive sites of Oc Eo, Phnom Da, and Angkor Borei, which may have been autonomous principalities or part of a confederation. Along with the adjacent Phnom Da, Angkor Borei was a notable ritual center; its influence outlived the eclipse of Funan, perhaps through association with an ancestral cult. Buddhism and Hinduism had a unifying effect to some extent but within the region, devotees only adopted those aspects of the Indian faiths that were relevant to their needs; these probably varied from place to place. It is possible that the Buddha and Hindu gods were honored with temples and statues, emulating those of India, in order to bolster the political or social status of their Southeast Asian adherents.

Chinese writers left a number of accounts describing the kingdom of Funan in the Mekong Delta, that led French scholars of the 19th and early 20th centuries to conclude that it was a great power whose influence stretched across much of Southeast Asia. During the last thirty years, however, an intensive amount of archaeological investigation in Southeast Asia has led to a reappraisal of the work carried out by the Ecole Française d’Extrème Orient during the French colonial period. This in no way diminishes the achievement of archaeologists such as Louis Mallaret, historians, for example Paul Pelliot and art historians including Pierre Dupont; rather, it places their work in a different context. The French believed that Funan was politically dominant until the 7th century but scholars now suggest that a number of small rival principalities existed, possibly city states whose strength and influence depended on changing political and economic circumstances. We do not know the names the inhabitants gave their homelands; Funan was a Chinese attempt at recording a local name, possibly ‘Phnom’ (meaning ‘mountain’). Funan may have spread its influence along the coast as far as the Malay Peninsula, but it is more likely that this was through the establishment of trading posts rather than political control. The French believed that a single culture spread through much of mainland Southeast Asia, but this is not strictly accurate. Away from the coast, communities were scattered and remote from one another, although ethnic groups shared certain spiritual ideas concerning village and nature deities.

Expert’s note: For a detailed academic commentary on the present lot, elaborating on the history and art of Funan as well as the evolution of Buddhist images in the Mekong Delta, and showing many further comparisons to examples in private and public collections, please see the lot description on www.zacke.at. To receive a PDF copy of this academic dossier, please refer to the department.

Literature comparison:
Compare a closely related sandstone figure of the Buddha preaching, attributed to Southern Cambodia and dated to the late 7th century, 94 cm high, in the collection of the Musée Guimet, reference number MG18891, and exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century, April 14, 2014–July 27, 2014, cat. no. 44. Compare a related sandstone figure of Avalokiteshvara, also standing on two lotus flowers, attributed to Southern Vietnam and dated second half of the 7th to early 8th century, 188 cm high, in the collection of the Musée Guimet, reference number MA5063, and illustrated ibid., cat. no. 137. Compare a closely related wood figure of Buddha, dated c. 6th century, in the Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City, illustrated by Nancy Tingley, Arts of Ancient Viet Nam: From River Plain to Open Sea, Houston, 2009. Compare a closely related sandstone figure of Buddha, dated to the 7th century, 98.2 cm high, in the National Museum of Cambodia, inventory number Ka.1589.

Auction result comparison:
Type: Related
Auction: Christie’s New York, 20 March 2012, lot 151
Price: USD 338,500 or approx. EUR 423,500 converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing
Description: A sandstone figure of Buddha Shakyamuni, Khmer, Angkor Borei, 9th century
Expert remark: Note that this figure is slightly later and considerably smaller (82.6 cm) than the present lot.

Auction result comparison:
Type: Related
Auction: Christie’s New York, 17 March 2015, lot 35
Price: USD 413,000 or approx. EUR 500,000 converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing
Description: An important stone figure of Buddha, Thailand, Dvaravati period, 8th century
Expert remark: Note that this figure is attributed to Dvaravati, around 600 miles northwest of the Mekong Delta. While Buddhist sculpture of the pre-Angkor period sometimes shares characteristics with contemporaneous Dvaravati art, the present figure's slightly attenuated proportions mark a departure, imbuing the Buddha with a lithe, uplifted quality. Note the slightly smaller size (111.7 cm).

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Auction: DAY 1 - TWO-DAY AUCTION - Fine Chinese Art / 中國藝術集珍 / Buddhism & Hinduism, Thu, 29th Sep 2022

Galerie Zacke is honored to present Fine Chinese Art, Buddhism & Hinduism, a two-day premium auction. The flagship auction will happen on Day 1 of the sale, showcasing 267 items, including several masterpieces from notable collections.

Extensively researched, the two-day auction features 151 named provenances. Highlights include important names in the industry, such as Linda Wrigglesworth, Susan Chen, Charlotte Horstmann, Hisazo Nagatani, Dr. Wou Kiuan, E & J Frankel, Robert Kleiner, Marchant & Son, Sam Bernstein, Sydney Moss, Hugh Moss, Roger Keverne, A & J Speelman, Hedda and Lutz Franz, the Bernheimer Collection, Leo Diamond, Acher Eskenasy, and Captain Charles Oswald Liddell. There are also more than 20 museum deaccensions from institutions around the world. 

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