A large and important gilt bronze figure of Buddha
The Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza CollectionBaroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, director and Vice President of the Board of Trustees of The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, has long been devoted to the cultural preservation of the arts. Her father, an industrial engineer and businessman, was also an accomplished painter and collector of Catalan paintings. From the time she was a child, her family cultivated the Baroness’s love of the arts. Internationally educated and well-traveled, the Baroness was exposed to a vast array of cultures with distinct artistic traditions, fostering her love of art from all corners of the world. In 1985 the Baroness married Baron Hans Heinrich von Thyssen-Bornemisza, a businessman and devoted art collector, reigniting her childhood passion and catalyzing an even deeper commitment to the arts. The marriage of the Baron and Baroness not only merged two families, but also joined their two distinctive collections into a comprehensive group of more than 1,200 works, including paintings by renowned artists such as Titian, Van Gogh and Picasso. The Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza hailed from an important collecting legacy founded by his grandfather, August Thyssen in the early 20th century. August, an industrial magnate, is known to have commissioned Rodin to create six sculptures for his budding collection. August’s son, Heinrich, continued his father’s legacy with a focus on both classical and modern painting. August’s grandson, the Baron Hans Heinrich, carried the collecting torch, reassembling his father’s collection after it was dispersed among his siblings following his death in 1947. The cohesive collection includes such famous works as Ghirlandaio’s Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni formerly in the J.P. Morgan Collection. With a passion for German Expressionism, Baron Heinrich continued to collect modern and contemporary works throughout his life. With her husband at her side, the Baroness elegantly stepped into the role as co-caretaker of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family collection, focusing mainly on nineteenth and twentieth century North American and European painting, including select works of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Expressionism. Together they continued to build what was to become one of the most revered art collections in Europe. As the collection grew, so did the couple’s belief that the works should be made accessible to a larger audience. By the late 1980s, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection had grown too large to remain in the family gallery space in Lugano, Switzerland. The Baron and Baroness began to entertain proposals from art institutions around the world looking to house and care for this illustrious collection. Determined to keep the collection together, in 1988 they entrusted it to the Spanish government with the assurance that it would be cared for and managed according to their vision. Housed in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid since 1992, the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection boasts Western art works spanning from the thirteenth to the twentieth centuries, as well as works from Asia and beyond. The Baroness has a special fondness for Asian works of art and furniture, which fill her home. The three exceptional works entrusted to Christie’s (Lots 620, 621, 622) from the Baroness' private collection, illustrate her keen eye for Asian art and her commitment to collecting at the highest level in every field. Until recently, these select works remained in pride of place in her home alongside other works from her personal collection. Christie’s is honored to offer these works at auction.
A large and important gilt bronze figure of Buddha


A large and important gilt bronze figure of Buddha
Nepal, 13th/14th century
19 7/8 in. (50.5 cm.) high
Sotheby’s New York, 1 December 1993, lot 23.
Himalayan Art Resource (himalayanart.org), item no. 24326

Lot Essay

This impressively large and finely cast figure of Buddha is seated in dhyanasana with his right hand in bhumisparshamudra, as he calls the earth to bear witness to his meditation. There are numerous indications of his divinity, including the lotuses on his palms and soles, his pierced earlobes surmounted by diminutive lotuses, his elongated eyes with the pupils gazing inward, the raised urna centering his forehead, and his tightly curled hair rising over the ushnisha, which is topped by a conical finial. He is dressed in a sheer sanghati with richly incised hems bordered by beads cast in high relief, with one pleated end elegantly draped over his left shoulder. The bottom of the robe fans out in thick pleats below his crossed ankles. This work is lavishly gilt overall and retains much of its consecration material, visible from the underside.
Elegantly modeled, this large figure of Buddha is comparable to a seated figure from the same period (see U. von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculpture in Tibet Vol. 1: India and Nepal, 2001, pp.522-523, cat.no.170c). Compare the robust chest, covered in a simple sanghati gathered in fine undulating folds at his shoulder and bordered by an incised scroll border with beaded rims. The arms are rounded and elongated and the legs gracefully folded in padmasana. The faces are square-shaped with elongated eyes centered by an urna. Each ear is decorated with a single flower and the hair is neatly arranged in tight curls rising to a domed ushnisha. While von Schroeder notes that the comparable sculpture “was either imported from Nepal or is the work of Newar craftsmen in Tibet,” the single flower above each ear suggests the influence of eleventh-century Kashmiri prototypes from Western Tibet (ibid., pp.152-166, cat.no.40B-47B). The adaptation of these early features illustrates the cross-pollination of artistic styles that spanned centuries. The present sculpture exemplifies the ability of the Newar artist to translate these earlier features into a distinctly Newar style, while the size suggests it was an important commission.
Compare with a another Nepalese gilt bronze figure of Buddha sold at Christie’s New York on 18 March 2015 (lot 4018 for $425,000), which is three-quarters the size of the present figure. Almost identical in terms of the iconographic details, the present work exhibits a greater refinement in the overall casting of the figure. The proportions of the body and head, the hands and feet and especially the facial features, which are meticulously rendered, give the Buddha a quintessentially Newari appearance. The present figure represents the peak of sophistication for early Nepalese bronze work, particularly for a sculpture of such large size and fine state of preservation.

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