Lot 196. A rare pair of polychrome stucco fresco fragments of bodhisattvas, Five dynasties-Song dynasty (907-1279). Height 35 3/4  in., 90.8 cm; Width 17 1/8  in., 43.5 cmEstimate: 60,000 — 80,000 USD. Lot sold 275,000 USD. © Sotheby's.

each of rectangular form, the first elegantly painted with an attendant bodhisattva standing on lotus blossoms and with a circular halo framing the head, holding a lotus sprig with a long leafy stem, the deity wearing a loose dhoti and a long flowing scarf, further adorned with beaded necklaces and elaborate headdresses; the second painted with a similarly depicted bodhisattva with the right hand holding a tray possibly supporting a censer and the left hand in karana mudra, framed (2).

Provenance: Collection of Stephen Junkunc, III (d. 1978).

Note: These rare wall paintings are in the lineage of Buddhist imagery best known from wall paintings and silks of the Tang dynasty (618-907) preserved in the Dunhuang cave temples of Gansu province. With the exaggerated chubby cheeks and chin, graceful curves of the exposed belly above waistline, fluttering ribbons wrapping the body and an elaborate jeweled coiffure, the present paintings carry characteristic touches of Buddhist figural paintings attributed to the eighth to ninth centuries. See a late Tang painting of a bodhisattva of more elaborate style, discovered in the Mogao caves, Dunhuang, from the collection of Sir Marc Aurel Stein, and now preserved in the British Museum, London, included in the Museum’s exhibition Caves of the Thousand Buddhas. Chinese Art from the Silk Route, 1990, cat. no. 14. 

The present fragments are notable for the clever use of vivid colors and determined brushstrokes that imbue volume to the overall composition. They were likely part of a larger mural covering the walls of a temple, depicting various members of the Buddhist pantheon all flanking a central Buddha. For other examples of this type, see a fresco fragment of a bodhisattva, attributed to the Northern Song dynasty, formerly in the collection of Carl Otto von Kienbusch Jr., and in the Art Museum, Princeton University, New Jersey, museum no. y1952-51; and stucco panel attributed to the Song/Jin Dynasty, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 3rd-4th December 2015, lot 287.


Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, New York, 12 sept. 2018, 10:30 AM