NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian Works of Art sale on 21 March 2012 will be led by one of the most impressive South Indian bronze sculptures to be offered at auction in recent times. The 13th century pair of Shiva with his consort Uma (Somaskanda) boasts an exceptional provenance, having been in a number of distinguished collections since the 1950s and is estimated to fetch $600,000/800,000.
Between the ninth and thirteenth centuries much of South India was ruled by the Chola dynasty. This period is recognized for unparalleled cultural and artistic achievements, with the building of numerous temples and the production of large numbers of stone and metal sculptures for worship in these edifices. In particular, bronze sculptures from this period such as the present Somaskanda group, created for the purpose of processional worship, are widely hailed as masterpieces of world art.
The Somaskanda sculpture depicts Shiva, one of the principal deities in the Hindu religion, with his consort Uma beside him. Shiva is the Great Ascetic God whose infinite power remains concealed. His grace is revealed only when he is in the company of his consort Uma. This sculpture embodies the essential qualities of both Shiva and Uma; Shiva’s expansive, powerful chest is inflated with breath with his face radiating a calm divinity whilst Uma embodies the qualities of beauty and perfection with her body turned slightly towards her lord Shiva binding the two together in an everlasting image of benevolence and transcendence.
The sculpture carries a storied provenance having been part of three eminent collections of Indian and Southeast Asian Art throughout the second half of the 20th Century. It was acquired by the visionary European collector Dr. J.R. Belmont before the 1950s, staying in his collection for over a decade, before moving into Christian Humann’s Pan Asian Collection, one of the largest and finest holdings of South Asian Art ever assembled. In 1982 part of this collection including the Somaskanda was acquired by the legendary connoisseur Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in whose collection it remained until 1999. The upcoming sale offers collectors a rare opportunity to acquire a masterpiece of Indian art of both superlative quality and impeccable provenance.
The sale also includes an excellent selection of Hindu and Buddhist art from Nepal including a large gilt copper sculpture of Vishnu (est. $200/300,000) dated by inscription to 1105 CE and gifted to the original owner by the King of Nepal in the 1950s, and an elegant 9th/10th century image of Avalokiteshvara (est. $80/120,000) with a provenance dating back to the early 1970s. Both sculptures are exceptionally fine and are a testament to the renowned artistry of Newari metalworkers in the Kathmandu Valley during the medieval period.
Another highlight of the Himalayan section is an 18th century Sino-Tibetan painting of an Arhat (teacher) (est. $80/120,000) made during the Qianlong period and dated 1794. The exquisitely painted work depicting the adept seated on a lotus throne flanked by his spiritual progenitor Buddhas, bears obvious Chinese stylistic elements and is posited to attract strong cross-over interest from the ever increasing pool of Chinese buyers participating in Indian and Himalayan art sales.
Stone sculptures in the sale include an extremely fine Khmer Baphuon Uma (est. $80,000/120,000) of exceptional quality from a European Estate. The perfectly proportioned sculpture depicts the Goddess standing on a plinth wearing a finely striated sarong, her face bearing a gentle, benevolent expression. The work represents the best of Baphuon art and also carries a 1967 provenance. Also of interest is a rare and precious masterfully carved agate relic depicting a fasting Buddha from the Gandharan period (est. $20,000/30,000). The sculpture is remarkable for the level of detail achieved in a diminutive scale.
The auction is rounded off by a diverse group of Indian miniatures culled from a number of private American collections. Totaling 35 works, this is the most eclectic selection of miniature paintings offered in a New York sale over the past decade. Highlights include an early 16th century portrait of the Emperor Akbar attributed to the eminent painter Manohar (est. $10,000/15,000), an early 18th century portrait of the Emperor Farrukhsiyar attributable to either Bhawanidas or Chitarman II (est. $30,000/50,000), a circa 1770 illustration of lovers on a terrace from Lucknow, attributed to Faizullah (est. $25,000/35,000), a leaf from the Polier album est. ($30,000/40,000) as well as religious and secular subjects from a variety of Rajasthani and Pahari courts.
Sotheby’s New York Asia Week Auctions March 2012
Monday 19th March – Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art, 10am
Tuesday 20th March - Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 10am
Wednesday 21st March – Fine Classical Chinese Paintings, 10am
Thursday 22nd March - Indian & Southeast Asian Works of Art, 10am