Lot 8100. A fine and rare gilt bronze figure of Shadakshari Lokeshvara, Yige drugma Yongle incised six character mark and of the period. Sold for $1,370,500 (€ 1,113,141). © Bonhams 2001-2013.

NEW YORK, NY.- A fine and rare gilt bronze figure of Shadakshari Lokeshvara from the Yongle period has sold for $1,370,500 at Bonhams Chinese Art from the Scholar's Studio auction, realizing more than six times its pre-auction estimate. The elegantly posed 15th century figure was produced by the imperial workshops, to be brought to Tibet during one of the multiple missions made from the Chinese capital to the region between 1408-1419. It is a superb example of a Chinese sacred object reflecting Tibetan stylistic influence in 15th century China. 


A fine and rare gilt bronze figure of Shadakshari Lokeshvara, Yige drugma, Yongle incised six character mark and of the period. Sold for $1,370,500© Bonhams 2001-2013.

Seated in vajraparyanksana on a double lotus pedestal base, with principal hands in anjalimudra, and secondary left hand holding a lotus (padma) and right hand a rosary (aksamala), his graceful robed body belted at the waist and adorned with scarves draped over his arms and falling onto the pedestal, and set off by jeweled pendants, bracelets, and earrings framing downcast eyes under a five-pronged crown; the base sealed with a red-painted brass plate decorated with a visvavajra, the pedestal base inscribed with a six-character Yongle mark reading da ming yongle nianshi8 1/4in (21cm) high. 

Provenance: Purchased at Sarkisian Galleries, Denver, July 7, 1980
According to notes by Mr. Sarkisian, the work was acquired by him in India in the early 1960's

Shadakshari Lokesvara is one of the 106 manifestations of Avalokiteshvara, and embodies the six realms of the wheel of life, om mani padme hum. Works such as these with Yongle marks were produced by the Chinese imperial workshops, and appear, according to von Schroeder, to be part of a new tradition under the influence of Tibetan and Nepalese art during this period. For a discussion of these missions and their impact on the art of Tibet and China in this period, see Ulrich von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Volume 2, Tibet and China, Hong Kong, 2001, pp. 1244-48. 

The Yongle emperor initiated multiple missions between China and Tibet between 1408 and 1419. Records show that during six of these trips images were transported from China to Tibet. (p. 1241) For related Yongle examples see Ulrich von Schroeder, op. cit., pp 1274-5, plates 355, B-E, and pieces in the Qing court collection, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Buddhist Statues of Tibet, nos. 214, 216 and 217. See also a Yongle gilt bronze Manjusri in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated in James C. Y. Watt and Denise Patry Leidy,Defining Yongle: Imperial art in the Early 15th Century plate 25, as well as the discussion on pages 61-75.

See two Yongle images of Avalokiteshvara from the Stephen Markbreiter collection, sold Sotheby's Hong Kong, October 2010, lot 2146 and 2143 and a figure of Maitreya, lot 2144. See also a closely related example to the present lot sold by Beijing Poly, January 1, 2007, lot 960. 

The auction was sold at 85% by lot, achieving $4,665,000. Attendees filled the Madison Avenue gallery, while clients abroad representing more than a dozen countries participated live online and via telephone. 

The market for huanghuali furniture continued to be buoyant. An elegant 18th century recessed leg table brought $362,500, more than tripling its pre-auction estimate, while a fine 17th century square table with a carved bamboo motif soared past its pre-auction estimate to sell for $206,500. 


A huanghuali recessed leg table, ping tou'an, 18th century. Sold for US$ 362,500. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

The well figured single board top set into a mitered, mortise and tenon frame with ice-plate edge over a plain apron half lapped to u-shaped flanges and joined to flared oval supports and paired transverse stretchers.32 x 87 1/2 x 22 5/8in (81.3 x 222.2 x 57cm) 

A table of very similar design in the collection of the Minneapolis Museum of Art dated to the late Ming/early Qing era, is published in Robert Jacobson and Nicholas Grindley, Classical Chinese Furniture in the Minneapolis Museum of Arts, Chicago, 1999; catalog entry 40, pp. 122-123. The authors call this type of table 'one of the most enduring furniture forms of the entire world,' even showing small details of the 'Qingming Shanghe Tu' where furniture of this type makes a cameo appearance. Jacobson and Grindley point out that the terms 'ping tou'an' or 'yi zi zhuo' are preferable to the English 'altar table,' noting that in a traditional Chinese context, though the table could be used as an altar, 'they were not exclusive to that purpose.' 

For closely related examples, see lot 128, sold Sotheby's New York, Sept. 14th, 2011, lot 2107, sold Sotheby's Hong Kong October 5, and lot 1378, sold Christies, New York, March 24, 2011 and lot 152, sold in these rooms on May 28, 2012.

178a6e31ed7ba03b5384813b7dee42d4A fine huanghuali square table, fang zhuo, 17th century. Sold for US$ 206,500. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Based on a bamboo prototype, the richly figured two-board top set into a mitered, mortise and tenon frame with ice-plate edge, over a beaded apron elegantly carved at each corner with bamboo sprays under humpback stretchers wrapped around the vertical supports, the legs and stretchers finely carved imitating solid stalks of bamboo. 33 7/8 x 35 1/4 x 35 1/4in (86 x 89.5 x 89.5cm) 

Provenance: An Italian collection
Eskenazi Galleries, Milan

Since the Bronze Age, the fashioning of one material to take on the visual characteristics of another has been a fascinating aesthetic strand in the history of Chinese art. With early bronze vessels bearing imitation rope designs, or fine jade carved to appear as bamboo, or porcelain glazed and painted with a wood grain, the art of crafting one material to imitate another has produced some of the more compelling examples of Chinese material culture. It is interesting to note that in many of these instances--the current table included--the craftsmen has taken great pains to enhance an expensive or desired material, such as huanghuali wood, with added layers of meaning, giving it the noble and resilient qualities inherent in its emulated material --- bamboo.

A rare and important cast bronze incense burner and cover in the shape of a goose from the Ming dynasty achieved $326,500, quadrupling its pre-auction estimate. The finely cast fowl is a unique example of its type retaining its superbly fashioned lotus-form base. An impressively large gilt and lacquered Bronze Buddha from 17th century achieved $98,000, while a fantastic Tang dynasty pottery figure of an earth spirit tripled its pre-auction estimate to sell for $182,500. 


A rare and important cast bronze incense burner and cover in the shape of a goose, Ming dynasty. Sold for US$ 326,500. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Cast with tiny openings on its elongated neck and open bill as it crouches on webbed feet, the curving shafts and barbs of intricately detailed feathers forming symmetrical patterns across the neck and upper body of the cover and repeating on the thighs raised in slight relief from the curving base, the feet attached by tenons to an oval plinth separately cast in the form of a lotus pod trimmed with a row of stamens and overlapping petals. 14 1/2in (37cm) high. 

This lot is closely related to a gilt bronze censer of similar size sold in Christie's, New York Sale 1639, 29 March 2006, lot 320. The Christie's goose censer lacks the attached lotus plinth of this lot; but both display very similar arrangements of feathers on their bodies, extending even to the feather tuft in the form of a ruyi lappet on each forehead. These two censers, in turn, are closely related to a Ming bronze standing duck censer, ascribed to the 14th/15th century, imported from China to Japan and now preserved in the Tokugawa Museum of Art: see the exhibition The Shogun Age Exhibition, Tokyo, 1983, cat. no. 75, illustrated on p. 107. Among other features, the Tokugawa duck shares with the two goose censers a scalloped border that separates the smoothly finished surface of the neck region from the intricately worked layers of feathers across the back. The Tokugawa Museum duck is attached to a rectangular footed plinth instead of the elaborate lotus support of the Bonhams censer; but both are similar in their dark chocolate brown patina.

For the evolution of bird-shaped vessels in Chinese bronze culture as well as the importance of Ming period bronzes preserved in Japan, see Rose Kerr, Later Chinese Bronzes, London, 1990, pp. 14-16 and pp. 80-82.

178a6e31ed7ba03b5384813b7dee42d4A large gilt and lacquered bronze Buddha, 17th century. Sold for US$ 98,500. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Seated in dhyanasana on an integral lotus base and plinth, wearing simple robes with cast lotus pattern foliate borders, the robes open at the chest revealing a wan symbol, the rounded face with a serene expression with the hair curled in tight knots that surround the usnisa, each petal of the three layer lotus base cast with a lotus pattern in relief. 31 1/2in (80cm) tall. 

Provenance: Acquired by the Mauerer family in China before 1939 and thence by descent.

This Buddha holds a myrobalan in his right hand, positioned in the gesture of bestowal, varadamudra. The myrobalan, or healing aruna fruit, and this mudra suggests the statue depicts the Medicine Buddha (Ch: Yaoshi Fo) or Bhaisajyaguru-- a popular deity in the Chinese Buddhist pantheon for those seeking healing from illness or pain. 

Two other large cast bronze Buddhas have been sold in our San Francisco rooms. See the statue most likely depicting the Amitabha Buddha with hands held in the dhyanamudra of meditation from the collection of Dino Bigalli, Maestro of the Chicago Civic and Light Opera, lot 8210 of sale 19433, December 20th, 2011. Lot 5056 from sale 20089 of December 10th, 2012 was another example of a massive cast bronze Buddha supported by an elaborate lotus petal throne, this figure displaying the bhumisparsamudra, and thus most likely depicting the historical Buddha Sakyamuni. 

262N09006_69X8BA rare massive blue and sancai glazed pottery figure of an earth spirit, Tang dynasty (618-907). Sold for US$ 182,500. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

Seated with four hoofs planted on the rock work base, the face with an animated fierce expression with fearsome fangs and bulging eyes, its proud chest and belly highlighted by sancai glazes, with feathered wings sprouting from the shoulders, and an unglazed flame-form flange rising from the back of the neck, the wings and face with splashes of blue glaze. 47 1/4in (120cm) high.

Provenance: Christie's New York, sale 2463, September 16, 2011 lot 1455
Christie's New York, sale 8606, March 20, 1997 lot 46 
The Jingguangtang Collection

LiteratureThe Tsui Museum of Art, Chinese Ceramics I, Hong Kong, 1993, no. 121

The result of Oxford thermoluminescence test no 866b48 is consistent with the dating of this lot.

This earth spirit (zhenmushou) is unusual for its remarkably large size and bold use of blue glaze. Although turquoise glazes are used infrequently in other mingqi pieces dating from the Tang, the appearance on an earth spirit, as in the present example, is incredibly rare.

Both classical and 20th century Chinese paintings in the auction also performed well. Once again Qi Baishi (1863-1957) proved to be popular, and his composition of Chicks was the section's top lot, achieving $122,500, more than double its pre-auction estimate. Wu Zouren's (1908-1997) Camels quadrupled its pre-auction estimate to sell for $98,500. 

Bonhams landmark achievements in the snuff bottle field continued with the high prices achieved in this sale. An inside painted glass snuff bottle by Ding Erzhong dated 1906 sold for eight times its pre-auction estimate, bringing $80,500, and jade bottles sold consistently high with an inscribed green nephrite bottle selling for $43,000. 

"We are very pleased with the excellent price achieved for the rare Yongle bronze. The presence of extraordinary examples representing highly sought-after genres of Chinese art inspired enthusiastic bidders to fill the Bonhams galleries today," said Bruce MacLaren, Bonhams Senior Specialist for Chinese Art at the New York office. “Both the high sell through rate and strong prices achieved reflects the careful selection of objects offered within Bonhams thematic approach to the field of Chinese art in New York.”