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13th-Century Bronze Somaskanda Group to lead Southeast Asian Art Sale

by WorthPoint Staff (03/08/12).

A pair of 13th-century South Indian bronze sculptures of Shiva with his consort Uma (Somaskanda) is expected to lead Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian Works of Art sale on March 21.

NEW YORK – A pair of 13th-century South Indian bronze sculptures of Shiva with his consort Uma (Somaskanda)—boasting exceptional provenance, having been in a number of distinguished collections since the 1950s—is one of the most impressive to be offered at auction in recent times and is expected to lead Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian Works of Art sale on March 21.

The lot is estimated to fetch $600,000 and $800,000.

Between the ninth and 13th centuries, much of South India was ruled by the Chola dynasty. This period is recognized for unparalleled cultural and artistic achievements, with the building of numerous temples and the production of large numbers of stone and metal sculptures for worship in these edifices. In particular, bronze sculptures from this period—such as the present Somaskanda group, created for the purpose of processional worship—are widely hailed as masterpieces of world art.

The Somaskanda sculpture depicts Shiva, one of the principal deities in the Hindu religion, with his consort Uma beside him. Shiva is the Great Ascetic God, whose infinite power remains concealed. His grace is revealed only when he is in the company of his Uma. This sculpture embodies the essential qualities of both Shiva and Uma; Shiva’s expansive, powerful chest is inflated with breath with his face radiating a calm divinity, while Uma embodies the qualities of beauty and perfection, with her body turned slightly towards her lord Shiva, binding the two together in an everlasting image of benevolence and transcendence.

Close-up of Shiva, the Great Ascetic God.

Detail of Uma, who embodies the qualities of beauty and perfection.

The sculpture carries a storied provenance, having been part of three eminent collections of Indian and Southeast Asian Art throughout the second half of the 20th century. It was acquired by the visionary European collector Dr. J.R. Belmont before the 1950s, staying in his collection for more than a decade, before moving into Christian Humann’s Pan Asian Collection—one of the largest and finest holdings of South Asian Art ever assembled. In 1982, part of this collection—including the Somaskanda—was acquired by the legendary connoisseur Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in whose collection it remained until 1999. The upcoming sale offers collectors a rare opportunity to acquire a masterpiece of Indian art of both superlative quality and impeccable provenance.

The sale also includes an excellent selection of Hindu and Buddhist art from Nepal, including a large, gilt copper sculpture of Vishnu (est. $200,000-$300,000) dated by inscription to 1105 CE and gifted to the original owner by the King of Nepal in the 1950s, and an elegant 9th/10th century image of Avalokiteshvara (est. $80,000-$120,000) with a provenance dating back to the early 1970s. Both sculptures are exceptionally fine and are a testament to the renowned artistry of Newari metalworkers in the Kathmandu Valley during the medieval period.

Another highlight of the Himalayan section is an 18th century Sino-Tibetan painting of an Arhat (teacher) (est. $80,000-$120,000) made during the Qianlong period and dated 1794. The exquisitely painted work depicting the adept seated on a lotus throne flanked by his spiritual progenitor Buddhas, bears obvious Chinese stylistic elements and is posited to attract strong cross-over interest from the ever increasing pool of Chinese buyers participating in Indian and Himalayan art sales.

This large, gilt copper sculpture of Vishnu from Nepal, dated by inscription to 1105 CE and gifted to the original owner by the King of Nepal in the 1950s, is expected to sell for between $200,000 and $300,000.

An extremely fine example of Khmer Baphuon Uma, coming from a European estate, could gavel for between $80,000 and $120,000.

Stone sculptures in the sale include an extremely fine Khmer Baphuon Uma (est. $80,000-$120,000) of exceptional quality from a European Estate. The perfectly proportioned sculpture depicts the Goddess standing on a plinth wearing a finely striated sarong, her face bearing a gentle, benevolent expression. The work represents the best of Baphuon art and also carries a 1967 provenance. Also of interest is a rare and precious masterfully carved agate relic depicting a fasting Buddha from the Gandharan period (est. $20,000-$30,000). The sculpture is remarkable for the level of detail achieved in a diminutive scale.

The auction is rounded off by a diverse group of Indian miniatures culled from a number of private American collections. Totaling 35 works, this is the most eclectic selection of miniature paintings offered in a New York sale over the past decade. Highlights include an early 16th-century portrait of the Emperor Akbar attributed to the eminent painter Manohar (est. $10,000-$15,000), an early 18th-century portrait of the Emperor Farrukhsiyar attributable to either Bhawanidas or Chitarman II (est. $30,000-$50,000), a circa 1770 illustration of lovers on a terrace from Lucknow, attributed to Faizullah (est. $25,000-$35,000), a leaf from the Polier album est. ($30,000-$40,000), as well as religious and secular subjects from a variety of Rajasthani and Pahari courts.

For more information about this auction, visit the Sotheby’s website.

This 18th-century Sino-Tibetan painting of an Arhat (teacher), made during the Qianlong period and dated 1794, has a presale estimate of $80,000-$120,000.

A circa 1770 illustration of lovers on a terrace from Lucknow, attributed to Faizullah, has an estimated value of $25,000-35,000.

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2 Responses to “13th-Century Bronze Somaskanda Group to lead Southeast Asian Art Sale”

  1. Shon B. Miler says:

    Somebody goofed…the Khmer Baphuon Uma illustration is erroneously identified as a Sino-Tibetan painting of an Arhat (teacher) and vice versa.

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