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More than $5.7 million realized at Bonhams' Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art Auction
A gilt copper alloy deity from a Vajrabhairava shrine, Yongle period, 15th century. Sold for: for $893,000. Photo: Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- Bonhams’ Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian auction on March 16 fetched a total of $5.73 million. Himalayan Works of Art were hotly contested and top quality works in every section achieved high prices in the packed standing-room-only sales room.

The highest-selling lot of the evening was a 15th century gilt copper alloy deity from a Vajrabhairava shrine, which sold for $893,000, soaring past its high estimate of $350,000. The sculpture comes from a private English collection and is an early 15th-century depiction of Surya (the Sun god). It belongs to a set of eight Hindu deities, which would have occupied the front edge of a throne for a monumental Buddhist sculpture of Vajrabhairava. Out of this group of eight, five others have been identified in private or public collections, and two remain unknown.

Other top sellers include:

· An outstanding gilt copper alloy figure of the prominent composite deity, Chakrasamvara that fetched $605,000. The 15th century masterpiece came from a private European collection and depicts the eponymous twelve-armed male deity and the female deity, Vajravarahi, locked in a passionate embrace;

· A 14th century gilt copper alloy figure of Virupa, from Tibet or Nepal that sold for $581,000, almost five times its high estimate. The small sculpture is finely detailed and depicts Virupa, a former abbot of Nalanda monastery, and the first mortal master of the 'Path with the Result', a refined tantric practice which can provide enlightenment in a single lifetime. The sculpture’s high copper content and fine modeling indicate the superior craftsmanship of Newari sculptors commissioned by Tibetan patrons; major Virupa bronzes of such exceptional quality exist only in museum collections.

· A copper alloy figure of Avalokiteshvara, Swat valley, 8th/9th century, which achieved $365,000, over 12 times its high estimate of $30,000. The figure wears patterned silks and sits on a lotus plinth. He holds a lotus in a gesture of charity. The Swat Valley served as an important repository for Buddhism after the Huns swept through the Kushan Empire in the 6th century. Spanning the 7th and 10th centuries, the small corpus of Swat bronzes produced demonstrates an adaptive artistic tradition responding to nearby regional styles, such as the Gandhara, Gupta, and Kashmir;

· A commanding 11th century copper alloy Chola sculpture of Shiva Sukhasanamutri from South India that realized $365,000. Coming from a private collection where it remained for over 20 years, this important bronze is an exceptional example of Chola sculpture produced during the rise of the empire;

· A carved schist head of Buddha from the ancient region of Gandhara, dated 3rd/4th century, which sold for $209,000, quickly exceeding its high estimate of $80,000. The sculpture is an exceptional and exemplifies the remarkable Greco-Roman legacy in Gandharan sculpture;

· A spectacular gilt copper alloy and inset Vajracharya crown, Nepal, circa 12th/13th century that achieved $161,000, well past its $20,000 – 30,000 pre-sale estimate. The regal crown is triple-tiered and beautifully encrusted with gems and semi-precious stones. Elaborate ritual crowns of this type are worn by Newari Buddhist Vajracharyas, those who occupy the highest rank in the Buddhist community, when officiating religious ceremonies in Nepal.

On his sale’s success, Edward Wilkinson, Consultant for the Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art department commented, “These very good results show the continuing demand for top quality works in this sector. There was strong competition from collectors around the globe cementing New York’s position as a leader in the auctioning of Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art.”

The next Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art sale will be held in September 2015.

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