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COLLECTION OF MONSIEUR ROGER CHAMBARD (1904-1982)
AMBASSADOR OF FRANCE IN SOUTH KOREA (1959-1969)
(LOT 126 - LOT 135)
Ambassador Roger Chambard, born in 1904, had a lifetime affection for continents and cultures such as Africa, the Arab world and the Far East. He always showed an insatiable curiosity for foreign civilizations including its art. He had always been interested in history and archeology which he shared with remarkable men like the anthropologist Marcel Griaule, Professor Mauss, Father Azaïs, writers Henry de Monfreid or Joseph Kessel whom he knew personally.
His first post in Asia was in China in Hankeou (Province of Hubei) from 1932 to 1938. After that he was posted in the middle east and returned to Asia in 1959, as French Ambassador in South Korea. His interest and his knowledge of Asian cultures as well as his popularity permitted him to stay for ten years in Seoul.
When he retired from Foreign Affairs, he was appointed Chairman of the financial holding Japan Pacific Fund until he passed away in 1982.
Although he was not religious himself, he was fascinated by the Buddhist philisophy. During his time as Ambassador in South Korea Monsieur Chambard collected this fine group of bronze sacred images. His ashes were spread over the religious site of Bul-Kuk-Sa in South Korea.
It is extremely rare to come across a group of early Korean Buddhist bronzes dating to the seventh and eighth century. In fact, if one thinks about Buddhism in Korea it is mainly as transmitter of the philosophy and their art from China to Japan. This group however, clearly demonstrates that Buddhism was lively and displays their own characteristics. Actually the Koreans saw themselves as the centre for Buddhism and monks travelled to China and India to study and upon their return created a unique Buddhist tradition.
During the late fourth century the first Chinese Buddhist monks arrived to the Korean peninsula to teach the Buddhist philosophy. The new faith was supported by each of the Three Kingdoms who ruled the peninsula. Several monasteries were established and as consequence the first sacred images imported; soon after, on its turn, created locally and adapted to their own, Korean, taste. During the sixth and especially seventh centuries Buddhism matured and monks, nuns and artists were sent to Japan where they laid the foundations of Japanese Buddhism. Bronzes from this period have a great charm and almost display more human than divine facial features, emphasized by the specific slanting eyelids and slightly compressing ends of their lips giving them a slight human smile.
In 668 the kingdoms were united under the rulers of the Silla state and Buddhism was strongly promoted. As the Unified Silla kingdom developed an alliance with the imperial rulers of the Chinese Tang dynasty it will be understandable that it influenced Buddhism and their art, as can be gleaned from most of the bronzes offered in this sale. Still they are distinctly different compared to the Tang dynasty examples. The Korean bronzes from the eighth century display a dignified countenance, with well-balanced proportions and a thin robe clinging to the body showing the curves of their voluminous body.
Although hardly any Buddhist manuscripts have survived from those days, it seems that Korean Buddhism was less divided into different schools than their counterparts in China and Japan. Most probably the school promoting the veneration of Buddha or the 'Pure Land School' was particular popular. This resulted as well in less different iconographic subjects as indeed can be deducted from this small collection. During the ninth century Korean Buddhist monks brought back from China new teachings of Chan Buddhism that emphasized meditation with the consequence that there was even less demand for sacred images. Perhaps this counts for the relative scarcity of early bronze examples, apart from loses due to many wars, earthquakes and other natural disasters, and thus making this presented group an important testimony of early Korean Buddhist art.
Post Lot Text
A GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF BUDDHA SHAKYAMUNI
KOREA, UNIFIED SILLA PERIOD, 8TH CENTURY