This lot has no reserve
Georges Halphen (1913-2003) was a born collector. His father, a composer, and his mother were both passionate art lovers and had raised him in this spirit. Throughout his life, he travelled around the world to visit the great museums and art collections. Over the years, he befriended many dealers and art experts and gradually assembled a fabulous collection of art from the four corners of the world: Cambodia, China, Egypt and Peru. But he was also interested in silver, French furniture, impressionist and modern pictures, and many other art forms.
This passion never weakened and one of his latest projects, at the age of almost 90, was to organize a beautiful exhibition of his beloved Peruvian feathers, held during the summer of 2003 at the 'Maison de l'Amerique Latine' in Paris. Indeed, he had been drawn to the Andes by the most treasured of ancient Peruvian artifacts, the extraordinary garments and headdresses worn only by the elite and royalty of the Inca Empire. Of gripping visual effect, these luminous, brightly-hued feather garments were thought to contain special mystical attributes. So much that, after the conquest of Peru by Pizarro in 1532, the Conquistadors sought to destroy all works adorned with feathers, suspecting that they continued to impart unique powers to the Indians. It is therefore a tribute to his bold eye and broad interest that Georges Halphen should have assembled such a superb collection of these rare garments.
Besides, Georges Halphen was also an art patron, who in 1995 donated to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris the portrait of his father, painted by Renoir in 1880. He also gave the Musee Guimet some of his most important works of Khmer, Cham and Chinese art. In this too, he continued a family tradition, since his mother, Alice, had herself bequethed the famous Sieste by Van Gogh to the Louvre Museum, now housed at the Musee d'Orsay.
Yet, this was only one aspect of Georges Halphen's life, or should one say of his many lives. He was also a visionary landowner, a horse breeder, an architect, a lover of music and books, and a politician, since he was mayor of his hometown, La Chapelle-en-Serval, near Chantilly, for forty years. All those who had the chance to meet him were struck by his kindness, charm, erudition, moral rectitude and a sense of tradition, that was always measured, never overly conservative.
Chairman Christie's Europe
Georges Halphen (1913-2003) est né collectionneur. Elevé dans la passion pour les arts par un pére compositeur, et une mère esthète, amie de nombreux artistes. Son appétit insatiable l'entraîna dans un voyage de découverte à travers maintes civilisations et cultures, au quatre de coins du monde. Parcourant les musées et découvrant les collections publiques ou privées, il se lia d'amitié avec de nombreux experts, conservateurs et collectionneurs. Il rassembla ainsi un formidable ensemble d'objets insolites, provenant du Cambodge, de Chine, d'Egypte, du Moyen Orient et du Pérou. Mais il ne négligeait pas pour autant des domaines plus proches, tels que l'orfèvrerie, le mobilier français, les tableaux impressionnistes et modernes, et bien d'autres spécialités encore.
Cet intérêt n'a jamais faibli. A près de 90 ans, l'un de ses derniers projets fut d'organiser une superbe exposition de masques et de vêtements en plumes des indiens du Pérou, à la Maison de l'Amérique Latine à Paris, durant l'été 2003. En effet, il fut toujours fasciné par cette civilisation, et par ses costumes extraordinaires, apanages des rois et de l'élite de l'empire Inca. D'un effet visuel frappant, ces parures lumineuses, décorées de plumes de toutes couleurs, détenaient, selon la croyance, des pouvoirs mystiques. Leur influence était telle que, suite à la conquête du Pérou par Pizarro en 1532, les Conquistadores s'appliquèrent à détruire tous les habits et objets en plumes, craignant qu'ils ne confèrent encore certaines forces surnaturelles aux indiens. Une collection si remarquable de ces oeœuvres rares témoigne incontestablement de l'oeœil de péécialiste, du discernement et de l'ouverture d'esprit de Georges Halphen.
Georges Halphen était également mécène : il fit don au Musée d'Orsay à Paris du portrait par Renoir de son père, Fernand. Il donna également au Musée Guimet quelques unes de ses pièces les plus importantes d'Art Khmer, Cham et Chinois. Il poursuivait ainsi une tradition initiée par sa mère, Alice, qui avait légué au Musée du Louvre le fameux tableau de Vincent Van Gogh, "La Sieste", maintenant exposé au Musée d'Orsay.
A ses passions de collectionneur s'ajoutaient bien d'autres aspects à sa vie, ou plutôt à "ses" vies. Il était féru d'architecture, de musique et de beaux livres. Mais c'était également un propriétaire foncier visionnaire, un fermier reconnu, un éleveur de chevaux, et un homme politique, puisque maire de sa ville natale, La Chapelle-en-Serval, près de Chantilly, pendant 40 ans. Tous ceux qui ont eu la chance de le rencontrer ont été marqués par son charme, son érudition, sa rectitude morale, et un sens toujours mesuré de la tradition.
Président de Christie's Europe
Sacred Images from Mainland Southeast Asia
A selective group of circa twenty-five stone and bronze sculptures from mainland Southeast Asia constitute the first part of the Georges Halphen Collection. This group will be followed by his early Chinese Works of Art, Antiquities and Peruvian feathers. Most of the Southeast Asian examples are from Cambodia while a few originate from Thailand and Champa (present Vietnam).
Almost all offered sculptures in this section are sacred images and created for worship and contemplation. The religions that inspired these sculptures are Hinduism and Buddhism. Both were introduced from India into Southeast Asia around the second to third century where they mingled with local cultures. Around the thirteenth century Hinduism lost its strength while Buddhism continued to flourish and became in its Therevada aspect the predominant religion until present day.
These sacred images are based on Indian iconography and iconology. It will be understandable that models of sculpture, temples and treatises must have been brought by pilgrims and missionaries from India to Mainland Southeast Asia. Throughout the many centuries of contact, wave after wave of religious and artistic traditions flowed from India to Mainland Southeast Asia. The earlier images show stronger reminiscences of Indian styles and expressions. Gradually these foreign stylistic influences diminished and were taken over by local elements.
From the second to third century A.D. Mainland Southeast Asia saw the rise of urban settlements which were ruled by kings who practised Indian religions and organization systems. Out of these many small kingdoms, Funan, in the lower basin of the Mekong river, became the most powerful around the fourth century. Its political authority extended into East and Central Thailand. Soon however, this kingdom disintegrated and was followed in the mid-sixth century by the rulers of Chenla who inherited the ancient Funan territory.
Central Thailand saw around the same time the rise of a new political power, well-known as the Mon kingdom of Dvaravati. Their inhabitants adhered the Buddhist faith and venerated the historical Buddha. Sculpted examples show a homogenous and strong ethnic unity which is clearly visible in two examples in the Halphen Collection (Lots 403 and 404). Present Peninsular Thailand had in those days strong commercial and cultural contacts with the rulers of Funan and the subsequent Chenla kingdoms before it became controlled by the Sumatran-based empire of Buddhist Srivijaya at the end of the eight century. Although not completely preserved, Lot 405, might represent such a Hindu example stemming from Peninsular Thailand.
The art of Funan and Chenla which constitute the so-called Pre-Angkor period of Cambodia was primarily inspired by Hinduism. A sculpted example is the four-armed Vishnu (Lot 407). It is carved in the Phnom Da style, named after a small temple complex situated in the lower half of present Cambodia and datable to the late sixth or early seventh century. This area is in general considered as the cradle of the future 'Khmer' empire. Within a century they moved their power northwards where the Hindu temple complexes of Sambor Prei Kuk and Prasat Andet (seventh to eight century) served as its axis. Two examples in the presented collection originate from these sites (Lots 408 and 409).
During the ninth century king Jayavarman II set up a new reign in the mountains of Kulen, in the vicinity of the future Angkor complex. A fine stone head is carved in this Kulen style (Lot 410). From now onwards uptil the thirteenth century Cambodia witnessed the rise to power and subsequent expansion of the great Angkor kingdom. A large part of present day Thailand came under the political power of the various rulers of Angkor. This resulted in much building activities and in the creation of countless stone and bronze images, all in a distinctive 'Angkor' style. French scholars have, over the last century, divided this era in several styles, all named after different temple complexes which were created by successive kings. Most of these rulers were followers of the Hindu faith. From the second quarter of the tenth century is a fine stone head of Vishnu (Lot 412) which is created in a vigourous style, characteristic for the Koh Ker phase. A century later sculptures became temporary more elongated and slimmer, represented here by an unusual large male torso (Lot 417). This style is named after the Baphuon temple.
During its last phase Buddhism became the state religion. Actually the thirteenth century saw the construction of the largest Buddhist monument ever constructed in Mainland Southeast Asia, Angkor Thom with its central Bayon temple. A small stone Buddha head from the Halphen Collection testify to this last phase of the Angkor period (Lot 421).
These enormous religious, but also secular building activities during this later phase of the Angkor period had exhausted the country. The thirteenth century marked the decline of the power of the rulers of Angkor and its people. This was enhanced by the arrival of the Thais, a who rose to political prominence in those regions formerly occupied by the Mons and Khmer. They conquered also temporary the Angkor area which facilitated its complete political decline. Finally during the mid-fifteenth century the Khmer capital was moved from the Angkor area to present day Phnom Penh.
Hugo E. Kreijger
Post Lot Text
A ROSE SANDSTONE FEMALE HEAD
CENTRAL INDIA, RAJASTHAN, 11TH CENTURY