What’s happening in Asian art

Bonhams announces New York Asia Week sale highlights for March 2021

March 3, 2021

An incredibly rare and museum-quality 11th century brass figure of Vajravarahi from Northeastern India, dating from the Pala Period; an important 10th century lacquered wood sculpture of Amida Buddha; and a wonderful grouping of Ming and Qing lacquer wares from the Collection of Robert W. Moore are among the highlights of Bonhams New York Asia Week sales announced today. This March, Bonhams New York will present a plethora of fine and rare works from a range of art historical periods throughout Asia’s past and present, the sales include: Chinese Works of Art and Paintings on Monday, March 15 at 10AM EST, Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art on Tuesday, March 16 at 6PM EST, and Fine Japanese and Korean Art on Wednesday, March 17 at 10AM EST.

Chinese Works of Art and Paintings
Monday, March 15, 2021
10AM EST

This sale offers treasured works of art from a series of prestigious private collections from America, led by the Ming and Qing lacquer wares from The Collection of Robert W. Moore, famed California collector of Chinese and Korean art. Among the highlights is a superb 15th/16th century Ming mother-of-pearl and black lacquer octagonal tray, exquisitely inlaid with courtly scene of figures at a lakeside pavilion (Estimate: US$25,000-35,000). Other featured collections include:

• Select sculptures from The Estate of Marilynn B. Alsdorf, featuring a rare black stone cross-legged figure of Maitreya dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (Estimate: US$70,000-100,000).

• Ceramics from the 9th century through late Qing, led by a cream-glazed ingot-shaped pillow with an Imperial Qianlong inscription from The Rosalind Ching Pastor Collection (Estimate: US$50,000-70,000). Research suggests that it formed part of the renowned Japanese dealer Yamanaka & Co. Inc. property, which came to market in 1943 at the Parke-Bernet Galleries liquidation sale.

• A select group of archaic jade ‘animal’ carvings from the Shang Dynasty through Han Dynasty from The Estate of Robert Youngman, including a russet jade Shang bear (Estimate: US$30,000-50,000).

Highlights of Chinese paintings and calligraphy date from the 16th through 21st century, including:

• An interesting collaborative fan painting (Estimate: US$8,000-10,000) by two leading painters of the 19th century Shanghai School: Xugu (1823-1896) and Wu Changshuo (1844-1927). Created for their fellow artist of the school Ren Yi (1840-1896), this one small fan connects the three giants, and is a testament to the collaborative and social nature at play in Shanghai at the time.

• Qi Baishi (1864-1957) Mice and Candlestick (Estimate: US$70,000-90,000).

Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
6PM EST

Leading Bonhams marquee sale week is a museum-quality brass figure of Vajravarahi from Northeastern India, dating from the Pala Period, circa 11th Century (Estimate: US$400,000-600,000). Possibly one of the earliest known bronze sculptures of Vajravarahi in existence, this figure from the eminent Nyingjei Lam Collection has been on loan to the Rubin Museum over the past 15 years, and has never since been published. Vajravarahi has been the most important female meditational deity in Tantric Buddhism since 11th century in Northeastern India, and it was at that very moment this figure was created. It brims with expressive iconography recalling the Indian myth of the Earth Goddess, envisioned as a young girl rising from the depths of cosmic waters. Bronzes remaining in India are believed to have been buried, but the alluring buttery patina on this figure suggests that it had been taken to – and preserved in – Tibet in the 11th or 12th century.

Among the highlights are also sculptures from the Siddharth K. Bhansali Collection and a grouping of South Indian Ganesha sculptures, as well as:

• A gilt copper alloy figure of Lokeshvara Padmapani from Nepal, 12th/13th century (Estimate: US$100,000-150,000). Intimately scaled and sensuously modelled, it is a depiction of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, the lord who looks upon the world. It offers a calm, benevolent gaze and its right hand is in the gesture of granting wishes. The lotus in bloom by his left shoulder symbolizes every being’s potential to achieve enlightenment despite their past.

• A gilt copper alloy and repoussé shrine of Manjuvajra, Nepal, 17th/18th century (Estimate: US$130,000-180,000). The distinct shrine invokes Manjuvajra, an esoteric form of Manjushri – the Bodhisattva of Transcendent Wisdom. With three heads and six arms, he crosses his principal hands at the chest, embracing his consort while symbolizing the union of skillful means and wisdom.

Fine Japanese and Korean Art
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
10AM EST

The Fine Japanese and Korean Art sale is comprised of more than 180 Japanese and Korean lots, led by an important 10th century lacquered wood sculpture of Amida Buddha (Estimate: US$100,000-150,000). This Amida Buddha was created during the Heian period (764-1158), considered the first golden age of Buddhist sculpture in Japan. The distinctly Heian features – the soft lines, the voluminous body and limbs, and almost childlike appearance with gentle serene expressions – are considered as a native Japanese style.

Equally appealing is an important model of a celestial musician from the Horyuji temple (Estimate: US$35,000-50,000). This figure is believed to have been attached to the rim of an elaborate jeweled canopy of one of the three important statues in the Golden Hall of Horyuji Temple, Nara – Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. The canopy has been erected since the hall’s reconstruction after a fire in 670.

The sale’s Korean section features:

• An outstanding selection of ceramics from a private Japanese collection formed in the early 20th century, including an intricately carved white porcelain brush pot (Estimate: US$40,000-50,000) carved with symbols of longevity: deer, cranes, bamboo and pine.

• A large-scale painting of Yeongsan (Vulture Peak) Assembly (Estimate: US$7,000-9,000), which features the historical Buddha preaching the Lotus Sutra to his disciples. This impressive work, likely displayed at an alter behind the principal deity in a temple, was purchased in the 1960s by an American officer stationed in Korea.