We are proud to present 'Eight Masterpieces' on the occasion of Spring Asia Week 2008. This year also marks the 10th anniversary since the inception of the Indian and Southeast Asian Art Department at Christie's New York.
We have sought out these rare treasures in collections around the world. Many are remarkable discoveries for the field, not seen for decades, with provenance dating back to before 1970.
Each masterpiece is a chapter in our story. It takes us from the beginning of the modern era at the crossroads of East and West in the ancient Kingdom of Gandhara, via India as the motherland of Buddhism and Hinduism, where the prototypes were defined and disseminated all across Asia, to the Himalayas and Southeast Asia.
The genius of Indian art, its influence and contribution to the world is more than ever being recognized. Each work appeals to the senses and intellect at multiple levels, imbued with the sensitivity and humanity of its master, capturing the finest and most eloquent moment of a timeless existence.
Dr. Hugo Weihe
International Director Asian Art
International Specialist Head,
Indian and Southeast Asian Art
As a youthful prince Siddhartha led a comfortable life within the palace walls, enjoying court life. Yet one day he ventured beyond the city walls and was deeply struck by the suffering and agony he encountered in common existence. He set forth to renounce his worldly goods, departing early one morning on the back of his favorite horse Kanthaka, seeking a way of liberation from the endless cycles of birth and rebirth. Siddhartha would submit himself to countless tests of endurance and hardship over many years until he succeeded in reaching enlightenment in Bodhgaya, as Buddha, the 'Enlightened One'.
The ancient region of Gandhara, in the foothills of the Himalayas in present day Pakistan, is strategically located at the crossroads of East and West. To the East lies the Indus river, to the north the Swat Valley, to the West the Hindu Kush and Bactria, now Afghanistan. As a principal hub along the Silk Route, Gandhara flourished from the 1st through the 8th century as an important center. Its significance cannot be overstated as it is here, simultaneously to the Mathura region further south in India, that figurative Buddhist sculpture first emerged around the 1st century.
The historic Buddha lived circa the 6th century BC and after some time was first revered in an-iconic forms: for example as a stupa, denoting his burial mound and a symbol of the five elements; a chakra (wheel), symbolizing teaching as putting things in motion; or as a footprint, denoting his presence. The next step to an idealized anthropomorphic depiction was critical and influenced all future Buddhist sculpture across Asia. The Greco-Roman tradition remained strong in this region since Alexander the Great had once halted his armies here, stopping short of India, which explains the Hellenistic idiom of classical proportions and treatment of the drapery.
The Property of a Private West Coast Collection
GANDHARA, 2ND/3RD CENTURY