Detail, Lot 512.
The top ten stone sculptures (by estimate) in the Christie’s September 12, 2012 Indian & Southeast Asian Art Auction leads with Lot 512 (a large standing Buddha) and Lot 522 (an ornate composition with a seated Budhha, with remnants of centuries old gilding and pigment), each estimated at $400,000-600,000. If you wanted to purchase these works and decided to abide by the antiquities acquisition guidelines established the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), purchase of Lot 512 would be permissible, but Lot 522 would be off limits, or at least subject to a great deal more provenance research. Why? the provenance for Lot 512 dates back to 1968, while the provenance for Lot 522 dates to the 1990’s. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported of another recent acquisition controversy:
guidelines established by the Association of Art Museum Directors … stipulate that museums generally should avoid buying antiquities unless they were documented as being outside their likely country of origin before 1970, the date of an international UNESCO convention aimed at halting the looting of antiquities, or were legally exported thereafter.
According to the provenance published in Christie’s online catalogue seven of the top ten works — 70% — lack a post-1970 provenance. This is not to suggest that the works were improperly removed from their host country and/or looted, but this would probably preclude their acquisition by any museum that adheres to AAMD guidelines and it is meant to offer a word of caution to potential buyers and to suggest that a more detailed provenance be established. As the recent arrest and extradition of Subhash Kapoor, owner of the Art of The Past gallery in New York and the interception in Pakistan of looted Ghandaran artifacts demonstrate, the looting of Indian and Southeast Asian antiquities is an ongoing an substantial problem.
Here are the top ten works and their respective provenance:
Lot 512. A large gray schist figure of a standing Buddha
Gandhara, 2nd/3rd century
Superbly carved standing on a plinth with worshippers flanking a stupa, wearing voluminous robes with cascading folds, his left hand lowered, his face in a benevolent expression with crisply delineated features and elongated earlobes, his hair arranged in fine locks rising over the ushnisha, his face backed by a smooth nimbus
45½ in. (115.6 cm.) high
Estimate: $400,000 – $600,000 Hammer Price $700,000
Property from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul E. Manheim, New York, acquired before 1968
Acquired by the present owner from Christie’s New York, 16 September 2008, lot 321.
Lot 522. An important parcel gilt and polychromed gray schist figure of the Teaching Buddha
Gandhara, 2nd/3rd century
Very finely carved with the teaching Buddha seated on a lotus throne, supported by two by a lion flanked by two elephants, a pair of columns on either side with addorsed bulls forming the capitals and supporting an entablature with a modillion cornice lining a balcony with female occupants, a kneeling figure on either side of the Buddha’s head, all framed by Bodhisattvas seated in niches and two parakeets perched on the arch, the base with a frieze of Hariti and Panchika, the dispensers of both riches and fertility, flanked by pairs of nude male figures, with substantial remains of gilding and red pigment
20 1/8 in. (51 cm.) high.
Estimate: $400,000 – $600,000 Hammer Price $1,250,000
Private collection, Japan, 1990s
Acquired by present owner from Christie’s New York, 23 September 2004, lot 29
Lot 531. A gray schist figure of a bodhisattva
Gandhara, 2nd/3rd Century
Seated in dhyanasana on a throne with claw feet with his hands folded in his lap, the finely carved folds of his sanghati elegantly pooling at his ankles and spilling over the edge of the base, his torso adorned with beaded necklaces, the face serene with heavy-lidded eyes and raised urna surmounted by an elaborate headdress and backed by a nimbus, with a seated bodhisattva and attendant figures at the base
34 in. (86.4 cm.) high.
Estimate: $120,000 – $180,000 Hammer Price $180,000
Private collection, Switzerland, acquired from Spink and Son, Ltd., London, by 1978
A gray schist figure of the Buddha performing the miracle of Sravasti
Gandhara, 2nd/3rd century
Standing on a pedestal with an altar flanked by seated Buddhas and their attendants, his left hand holding the hem of a full-length sanghati, the folds elegantly draped over the body, the face with bow-shaped mouth, almond-shaped eyes, and gently arching brows, the locks of wavy hair secured over the ushnisha and backed by a halo, with the flames miraculously issuing from his shoulders and water from his feet
32¾ in. (81.8 cm.) high.
Hammer Price $85,000
Private collection, Japan, acquired 1986-1990
From the lot notes:
This rare representation of Buddha with fire and water emanating from his body refers to the first of a series of miracles he performed at Sravasti, confounding his critics. The Kasyapas, leaders of India’s six prevailing philosophical schools, invited him to a contest of miraculous powers believing they could demonstrate his inferiority. Buddha’s miracles, which also included allowing people to read each other’s thoughts and spreading a cleansing light throughout the world, resulted in the conversion of the Kasyapas’ ninety-thousand followers. The sculpture encapsulates this event, celebrating the virtue of the Buddha’s teachings in contrast to the philosophies of the Vedic Kasyapas.
Lot 579. A black stone stele of Vishnu
Northeast India, Pala period, 12th century
Vishnu standing on a double-lotus base supported by Garuda and holding the mace, chakra, conch, and lotus in his four hands, adorned with a festooned belt with the chest centered by a srivatsa, the face with serene expression surmounted by a conical headdress, flanked by Lakshmi on the left and Saraswati on the right, all backed by an aureole with rampant leogryphs and apsaras surmounted by a kirttimukha
29½ in. (74.9 cm.) high.
Estimate: $60,000 – $80,000 Hammer price $110,000
Private collection, Germany, since 1925
Lot 544. A black stone stele of Vishnu, Lakshmi and Garuda
Nepal, 15th/16th century
Vishnu seated with his ankles crossed, the face with bow-shaped mouth and downcast eyes surmounted by foliate tiara, with Lakshmi seated in his lap, her right hand around his neck and her left holding a lotus to her chest, both seated over the outstretched wings of Garuda, clad in armor and adorned with large earrings, the face with bulging eyes and arched brow, all backed by a flaming aureole
23½ in. (59.7 cm.).
Estimate: $50,000 – $70,000 Bidding on this lot stopped at $42,000 and it failed to sell.
With Albert Rudolph, Rudi Oriental Arts, New York, before 1973
Acquired by present owner in Portland in 1993
Lot 519. A gray schist bust of Hariti
Gandhara, 2nd/3rd Century
Dressed in a robe draped over one shoulder and adorned with multiple necklaces and earrings, the face surmounted by a tightly wound foliate headband, with a child resting on her shoulder, another clutching at her robes, and a third suckling at her breast
22½ in. (57.2 cm.) high.
Estimate: $45,000 – $60,000 This item failed to sell.
Private collection, Switzerland, acquired from Spink and Son, Ltd., London, before 1990
A red sandstone figure of Brahma
India, Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, 11th/12th century
The three-headed deity with a srivatsa mark on his chest, adorned with multiple beaded necklaces, belts and armbands, each face with hair pulled into a high chignon secured by an elaborate tiara interlocked with the others, the central face with a beard, all backed by a lotus halo
31½ in. (80 cm.) high.
Hammer price $40,000.
Collection of Jean-Claude Moreau-Gobard, Paris, since mid-1970s
Lot 621. A sandstone figure of Vishnu
Khmer, Angkor period, Angkor Wat style, 11th/12th century
The four-armed figure superbly carved standing in samabhanga, wearing a short sampot with a double-anchor fold at front and a pouch fanning across his left thigh, a belt with a double-oval pattern about the hips, the torso bare and with gentle rings around the neck, the surface smoothly polished with sloping contours
28¼ in. (71.7 cm.) high.
Estimate: $40,000 – $60,000 Bidding on this lot stopped at $30,000 and it failed to sell.
With Spink and Son, Ltd., London, by 1969
Private collection, New York, acquired from Spink and Son, Ltd., London, in 1972
Lot 511. A gray schist figure of Buddha
Gandhara, 3rd century
Standing on a low base holding the folds of his heavy sanghati, the face with heavy-lidded eyes flanked by pendulous earlobes, the hair in wavy locks pulled over the ushnisha, backed by a nimbus, with two devotees kneeling beside an altar at bottom
28½ in. (72.4 cm.) high.
Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000 Hammer Price $28,000
Private collection, Japan, 1990