Spectacular Claude de Marteau Collection Part II sells for £2.5 million at Bonhams
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Spectacular Claude de Marteau Collection Part II sells for £2.5 million at Bonhams
A spectacular gilt copper alloy figure of Chakrasamvara, Tibet, 17th century, demonstrating a sophisticated quality of craftsmanship and in perfect condition, achieved €491,775, doubling its pre-sale estimate. Photo: BOnhams.

LONDON.- The sale of the Part II of the Claude de Marteau Collection, held in Paris yesterday (4 October 2022) at Bonhams Cornette de Saint Cyr demonstrated once again how rare and important this collection was, focusing on the finest Himalayan art and a series of spectacular Buddhist statues from the Ming and Qing dynasties in China. The 56-lot sale, representing a broad range of styles from the 14th to 19th centuries, achieved a total of more €2,5 million with 93% of lots sold.

A spectacular gilt copper alloy figure of Chakrasamvara, Tibet, 17th century, demonstrating a sophisticated quality of craftsmanship and in perfect condition, achieved €491,775, doubling its pre-sale estimate. This statue comes from a prominent patron: the inscription to the back of its base – reading ‘tashilima’ – identifies that it was commissioned by Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet, the traditional monastic seat of the Panchen Lama, the Gelug order's second-in-command.

Edward Wilkinson, Bonhams Head of Indian, Himalayan and South East Asian department, commented: “The market once again responded enthusiastically to the rare and diverse offering. Despite the ongoing restrictions for travel for our mainland Chinese clients we still saw a tremendous amount of new registrations and competitive bidding across-the-board. Additionally, with the second sale also being offered in Paris we are delighted to see a growing participation from clients in Europe.”

Christine de Schaetzen, Director of Business Development of Bonhams Cornette de Saint Cyr in Brussels, said: “Since Bonhams started this exciting project, the focus has been to raise awareness of the legacy of Claude de Marteau by staging travelling exhibitions of the collection from Brussels to Geneva, Paris, New York and Hong Kong, accompanied by lectures presented by renowned specialists such as Jane Casey in Paris last Saturday. The extremely positive result of the two sales thus far, with a large number of new collectors from all over the world competing for items at all levels, is testament to the ‘eye’ of Claude de Marteau.”

A powerful and jewel-like representation of a gilt copper alloy figure of Panjaranata Mahakala Tibet, 14th Century hammered for €164,175, after a fierce bidding battle. This exceptional gilded bronze would have required an experienced and dexterous hand, evinced by Mahakala's stocky yet balanced proportions and perfectly finished with a dazzling abstract tiger-skin lower garment.

Alongside this figure, a thangka of Vajradhara and The Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas, Tibet, 16th Century fetched €82,275, ten times its high estimate. It depicts the Primordial Buddha, Vajradhara, seated on an elaborate throne defended by roaring snow lions and surrounded by registers of individualized portraits of the Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas. The inclusion of mountains and rivers staging a few mahasiddhas speaks to the Tibetan thangka painter's growing affinity with the Chinese landscape painting tradition.

An extremely rare gilt copper alloy figure of Vajravidarana, Densatil, Central Tibet, 14th century attracted heavy competition from bidders driving the price to €189,375, doubling the pre-sale estimate. Heavily cast with refined details balancing his semi-wrathful appearance, he is one of the five Cleansing Deities invoked for their ability to purify practitioners of their inner misdeeds and rid them of any diseases.

An elegant and serene figure gilt copper alloy Figure of Manjushri Qing Dynasty, 17th Century portrays Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of 'Transcendental Wisdom'. Seated in dhyanasana, with his raised right hand brandishing a sword, and his left hand in vitarka mudra, it achieved €82,275, within estimate. A gilt copper alloy figure of a yaksha general Qing dynasty, 18th century was able to seduce buyers with a final bid of €69,975, far surpassing its estimate of €15,000-20,000. The Twelve Yaksha Generals are retinue figures associated with the mandala of Bhaisajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha. Each of the generals characteristically holds a mongoose in his left hand.

A perfect emblem of the sale was the gilt copper alloy Vajramudgara (Ritual Hammer) China, 17th Century, ‘le marteau’ of the Claude de Marteau Collection, hammered for €86,055. First published and exhibited in 1974 this splendid richly-gilded object, inset with brightly-coloured stones, is an ornate ritual implement that would have been part of an important ritual altar set.

The sale of the Part III of the Collection is planned in Paris in June 2023.

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