A Mandala Depicting Kalachakra And Vishvamata. Tibet, first half 16th Century, 54.6 x 49.5 cm. Estimate $700/900,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s will present The Richard R. & Magdalena Ernst Collection of Himalayan Art. An unrivalled compilation of painting and sculpture, the collection of art from the Himalayas, ranging from the 12th through the 18th centuries, is one of the most significant to come to auction. With highlights now on view in a special exhibition at Sotheby's Zurich office, the full collection will be unveiled in the auction house's New York headquarters on 15 March, ahead of the dedicated auction on 22 March at 10am. 

Richard R. and Magdalena Ernst noted: “From the moment we laid eyes on the thangka of four Arhats in Kathmandu, we knew that Tibetan Art would form the heart of our collection. The region’s rich culture, spontaneous nature of creativity, and philosophical strength drew us in, and has kept us firmly engaged over the last fifty years. By sharing this collection with admirers in Zurich, New York, and beyond, we hope to spread the joys that collecting Southeast Asian Art has brought us with many others”. 

Yamini Mehta, Senior Director, International Head of Indian and South Asian Art, commented: “Marked by connoisseurship, taste and passion, the Ernst Collection of Himalayan Art is extraordinary in its depth and captivating in its beauty. Thoughtfully curated by Richard and Magdalena Ernst over the course of five decades, we are privileged to present their vision this spring. The first dedicated auction of its kind in over 12 years, the auction promises to be a remarkable event in the field of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art.” 

Born and raised in Winterthur, Switzerland, Nobel Laureate Richard Ernst grew up passionate about the fine arts and the sciences. He pursued the latter as a career, first as a graduate of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and later as a PhD student of Professor Gunthard. Focusing on the intersection of chemistry and physics, Mr. Ernst devoted extensive time and research to high-resolution nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. In the years that followed, he travelled to the United States to work for Varian Associates in Palo Alto, whose distinguished alumni include Weston A. Anderson, Ray Freeman and Jim Hyde. 

Before returning to Switzerland to lead the NMR research group at the Laboratorium für Physikalische Chemie of ETH-Z, and where he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1991, Mr. Ernst and his wife Magdalena travelled extensively through Asia. A trip to Kathmandu in March 1968 stirred their passion for Asian Art, specifically for Himalayan thangkas and Buddhist manuscripts from Mongolia. Since that momentous visit, and subsequent purchase of a thangka depicting four Arhats in a floral landscape, Mr. and Mrs. Ernst have together compiled one of the most important and renowned collections of Buddhist and Bön paintings from Tibet and Nepal. 



A Thangka Depicting Rinchen Zangpo, Tibet, circa 1200, 93 by 72 cm. Estimate $1.5/2 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

One of the largest, early Tibetan portrait paintings to have survived, this 13th century thangka of a Lama is remarkable for its condition, color and quality. Previously exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., this outstanding painting is the pinnacle of early religious portraiture from Tibet. 


A Thangka Depicting Four Kagyu Hierarchs, Tibet, circa 1225, 80 by 55.5 cm. Estimate $800/1,200,000Courtesy Sotheby’s.

A second exquisite example of the Ernst’s collection of portraits is this rare 13th century depiction of four monks. The work, dated circa 1225, was also featured in The Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian’s exhibition Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure.


A Thangka Depicting Two Taklung Lamas, Tibet, circa 1300, 52 by 40 cm. Estimate $250/350,000Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Depicting two Taklung Lamas in conversation with one another, this double portrait from circa 1300 beautifully encapsulates the respect awarded to accomplished religious teachers in Tibetan history. A painting from this same series can be found in the Cleveland Museum of Art collection..


A Mandala Depicting Kalachakra And Vishvamata, Tibet, first half 16th Century, 54.6 by 49.5 cm. Estimate $700/900,000Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Highlighted in Huntington and Bangdel’s 2003 The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art, this vibrant and hypnotic mandala is a stunning and exquisitely detailed illustration of the religious and meditative experience of Buddhist art.


A Thangka Depicting The Eighth Dalai Lama, Jampal Gyatso, Tibet, circa 1762, 88 by 61 cm. Estimate $300/500,000Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Featured in the 2005 exhibition, The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History, at the Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zurich, this large thangka is a superb example of Lhasa style. Framed in its original 18th century Chinese mount, this painting is in excellent condition.