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The Richard R. & Magdalena Ernst Collection of Himalayan Art headlines Sotheby's South Asian offerings of Asia Week NY
A Thangka Depicting Four Kagyu Masters, Tibet, circa 1225, 80 by 55.5 cm. Estimate: US$600,000 - 800,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s will present The Richard R. & Magdalena Ernst Collection of Himalayan Art. An unrivaled compilation of painting from the Himalayas ranging from the 12th through the 19th centuries, the collection is one of the most significant to come to auction in recent times. The works being offered for sale will be unveiled in Sotheby's New York headquarters on 15 March, ahead of the dedicated auction on 22 March at 10am.

Richard R. and Magdalena Ernst noted: “From the moment we laid eyes on the thangka of four Arhats in Kathmandu, we knew that Tibetan Art would form the heart of our collection. The region’s rich culture, spontaneous nature of creativity, and philosophical strength drew us in, and has kept us firmly engaged over the last fifty years. By sharing this collection with admirers in Zurich, New York, and beyond, we hope to spread the joys that collecting Southeast Asian Art has brought us with many others.”

Yamini Mehta, Senior Director, International Head of Indian and South Asian Art, commented: “Marked by connoisseurship, taste and passion, the Ernst Collection of Himalayan Art is extraordinary in its depth and captivating in its beauty. Thoughtfully curated by Richard and Magdalena Ernst over the course of five decades, we are privileged to present their vision this spring. The first dedicated auction of its kind in over 12 years, the auction promises to be a remarkable event in the field of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art.”

Born and raised in Winterthur, Switzerland, Nobel Laureate Richard Ernst grew up passionate about the fine arts and the sciences. He pursued the latter as a career, first as a graduate of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and later as a PhD student. Focusing on the intersection of chemistry and physics, Dr. Ernst devoted extensive time and research to high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. In the years that followed, he travelled to the United States to work for Varian Associates in Palo Alto, whose distinguished alumni include Weston A. Anderson, Ray Freeman and Jim Hyde.

Before returning to Switzerland to lead the NMR research group at the Laboratorium fr Physikalische Chemie of ETH-Z, and where he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1991, Mr. Ernst and his wife Magdalena travelled extensively through Asia. A trip to Kathmandu in March 1968 stirred their passion for Asian Art, specifically for Himalayan thangkas and Buddhist manuscripts from Mongolia. Since that momentous visit, Dr. and Mrs. Ernst have together compiled one of the most important and renowned collections of Buddhist, Bn and Hindu paintings from Tibet and Nepal.


A THANGKA DEPICTING AN EARLY BUDDHIST MASTER Tibet, Circa 1200 or 13th Century 93 by 72 cm Estimate US$800,000 - 1,200,000

One of the largest, early Tibetan portrait paintings to have survived, this 13th century thangka of a Lama is remarkable for its condition, color and quality. This important thangka is one of the larger early paintings depicting the Tibetan masters that helped spread Buddhist doctrine during the Chidar, the “Later Diffusion” of the Buddhist faith,corresponding to the period c. 1000-1200. Previously exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., this outstanding painting represents the pinnacle of early religious portraiture from Tibet.

A Thangka Depicting Four Kagyu Masters Tibet, circa 1225 80 by 55.5 cm Estimate US$600,000 - 800,000
A second exquisite example of the Ernst’s collection of portraits is this rare 13th century depiction of four monks. No other early Tibetan painting has come to light that depicts two masters and their disciples in this format. The work, dated circa 1225, was also featured in The Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian’s exhibition Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure.

A THANGKA DEPICTING TAKLUNG ABBOTS KUYELWA AND SANGYE YARJON Tibet, Circa 1300 52 by 40 cm Estimate US$200,000 - 300,000
Depicting two Taklung Lamas in conversation with one another, this double portrait from circa 1300 beautifully encapsulates the respect awarded to accomplished religious teachers in Tibetan history. A painting from this same series can be found in the Cleveland Museum of Art collection. The present painting depicting the second and third abbots thus follows the Cleveland painting in the series. No other paintings from the set have come to light thus far, but there is a possibility that others exist, or once existed, depicting succeeding abbots of the monastery, or ones earlier in the series depicting lineage masters.

A THANGKA DEPICTING KALACHAKRA MANDALA Tibet, Circa 1570 54.6 by 49.5 cm Estimate US$500,000 - 700,000
Highlighted in John C. Huntington and Dina Bangdel’s opus The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art, this vibrant and hypnotic mandala is a stunning and exquisitely detailed illustration of the religious and meditative experience of Buddhist art.

Tibet, 19th Century 88 by 61 cm Estimate US$250,000 - 350,000

Featured in the 2005 exhibition, The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History, at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, this large thangka is a superb example of Lhasa style. The thangka depicts the 1762 enthronement of Jampel Gyatso (1758-1804) as spiritual and political leader of Tibet in one of the finest examples of Lhasa high court-style painting. Framed in its original 18th century Chinese mount, this painting is in excellent condition.

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