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A lifetime of collecting: The Triay Collection of Himalayan Art at Bonhams Cornette de Saint Cyr
A steel and gilt copper alloy repoussé oracle mirror, Tibet, 19th century. Estimate: €20,000-30,000. Photo: Bonhams.

PARIS.- Bonhams Cornette de Saint Cyr announced the auction of the Triay Collection of Himalayan Art which will take place in Paris on Thursday 15 December. The collection spans works created over a period of 1,500 years in the Buddhist culture that once flourished in Mongolia, Nepal and Tibet with estimates from €100 to €80,000. The sale consists of more than 480 lots of which 93 lots will be offered in the Live Auction on 15 December, with the remainder being offered in an Online-Only Auction from 10-16 December.

Assembled over a period of 40 years with an eye for the unusual and esoteric, The Triay Collection of Himalayan Art includes a vast array of sculptures, masks, paintings, amulets, ritual paraphernalia and objects. In the Tibetan Buddhist artistic traditions, graphic images of death and the afterlife - an area which was of particular fascination to the collector - are used as reminders that life is fleeting and that we must act virtuously. This exceptional sale showcases eerily beautiful images in the form of paintings, sculptures, objects, and ritual items. It presents a rare opportunity for collectors to dive deeply into Buddhist lore and practice.

A number of the highlights are dedicated to the Buddhist deity Chitipati, which take the form of skeletons, represented either singularly or as pairs depicted as a harmonious couple dancing with limbs intertwined, such as a pair of Chitipati ritual dance costumes with white metal and silver masks and silk embroidered garments and boots, Mongolia, 19th century (€80,000-120,000). Another Chitipati ritual dance costume with a papier-mâché mask and painted silk and silk embroidered garments and boots, Mongolia, 19th century will be offered with an estimate of €40,000-60,000. Considered embodiments of the deity themselves, each element of the costume is thoughtfully designed. The five-pointed crown of skeletons and parasol finial surmounting the terrifying gaze and wide gaping mouth of the face is deliberately fearsome.

Bonhams Global Head of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art, Edward Wilkinson, commented, “The Triay Collection is a unique assemblage of Himalayan art gathered over decades with a discerning eye and attention to detail. With many works featured in the landmark exhibitions in the Fundación La Caixa, Madrid in 2000, Musee Guimet, Paris in 2002, Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2003 and the Rubin Museum of Art in New York in 2010, this collection shines a fascinating light on Buddhist ritual art.”

Bonhams Global Head of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Asaph Hyman: “Following the success of the sales of the de Marteau and Rousset Collections, the Triay collection is a further milestone in the market. With a number of items formerly exhibited in the Ruben Museum of Art in New York, this collection shines a fascinating light on ritual instruments and objects and offers a wonderful opportunity to collectors worldwide. It is an honour to have been entrusted with this remarkable project.”

Highlights of the sale include:

• A silver and gold damascened iron ritual tripod stand, Eastern Tibet, Derge, 15th/16th century. Tripod stands such as these had a multitude of purposes, as the illustrations in the Gold Manuscript from the Fournier Collection in Secret Visions of the Fifth Dalai Lama reveal. The images depict tripods of this kind holding torma offerings, bumpas, kapalas, and in some cases show implements balanced on top of one another. Clearly used for tantric rituals and empowerment ceremonies, this tripod stand favours a style closely associated to China’s Ming Court (Estimate: €30,000-50,000).

• A steel and gilt copper alloy repoussé oracle mirror, Tibet, 19th century. An oracle mirror is used in the tantric practice of divination to make forecasts of future events. At the centre is the seed syllable for Amitabha 'hrih' surrounded by a thin gilded border of fleur-de-lys and further decorated by a band of swirling foliate designs. At the top is a depiction of the three jewels - the buddha, the dharma, and the sangha - surrounded by ornaments of coral and turquoise representing the four noble truths (Estimate: €20,000-30,000).

• A silver and gilt copper alloy figure of Hayagriva, Tibet, circa 17th century. This elaborate gilt-bronze represents a meditational deity (Yidam) rarely seen in Tibetan sculpture known as Black Hayagriva, identified by the horse's head emerging behind the crown and notably, for his layered silk robe. Remarkable for its liveliness and depth of composition, this figure was likely intended to be placed within a gau, or a shrine inside a home or temple for personal worship (Estimate: €30,000-50,000).

• A polychrome papier-mâché and silver mounted mask of a wrathful Deity, Tibet, 19th century (pictured front). This is one of the most powerful and dramatically rendered masks to appear on the market. Indicative of his skill hand, the artist has imbued a mesmerising alertness and intensity to the mask's piercing eyes beneath flaming eyebrows emblazoned in gold. There is varied iconography with the buffalo-head that is most commonly associated with Yama, the lord of Death. In the capacity of Vajrabhairava, Yama is a manifestation of Manjushri, the fierce archetype of wisdom's triumph over death, expelling the forces adverse to law and goodness (Estimate: €20,000-30,000).

• A polychrome terracotta and wood figure of Vajrabhairava (Ekavira), Tibet, 18th/19th century. When Yama, Lord of Death, was ravaging Tibet, the people invoked Manjushri for help. He assumed the form of Yamantaka (Conqueror of Death - also known as Vajrabhairava) and subdued Yama, making the latter a Regent of Hell. As the deputy of Manjushri, Vajrabhairava is known as the "discerning protector". In the Sakya tradition he is counted among the four main tantric deities along with Hevajra, Guhyasamaja and Chakrasamvara (Estimate: €20,000-30,000).

• A brass commemorative stupa with four Sakya hierarchs, Central Tibet, 15th century (Estimate: €70,000-90,000). Derived from ancient Indic burial mounds erected for important leaders, and often housing reputed relics of the Buddha, stupas are central to Buddhist worship and pilgrimage. Bronze models of stupas are also objects of worship, with grander examples, such as the present work, frequently containing physical relics of important monastic leaders, whose consecrated remains continue to bless their surroundings. A smaller, 15th-century stupa, is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

• A sandalwood figure of Lokeshvara, Nepal, 11th/13th century (Estimate: €50,000-80,000). As Nepal sits at the crossroads between Tibet and India, by the 11th/12th century when this sculpture was made, the harmonious contours and ornamental style of the Licchavi period coupled with the iconic features of the Phagpa Lokeshvara were already largely incorporated amidst the local woodworking styles in the Kathmandu Valley.

An Online-Only sale of the Triay Collection of Himalayan Art will be open for bidding from 10 to 16 December 2022.

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