Three masterpieces from the private collection of the renowned scholar of Tibetan Art, Ulrich von Schroeder, are to be sold at Bonhams Images of Devotion sale in Hong Kong on 29 November. A 13th century monumental brass alloy Figure of Canda Vajrapani is estimated at HK$22,000,000-28,000,000; a painting of Marpa receives the Poet-Saint Milarepa by The Tenth Karmapa Choying Dorje (1604-1674) at HK$10,000,000-15,000,000; and a copper Composite Figure of Vajrapani and Kubera also by Choying Dorje at HK$13,000,000-18,000,000.
At over a metre tall, the monumental Figure of Canda Vajrapani (in English, 'fierce holder of the thunderbolt') is one of the great masterpieces of 13th-century Tibetan sculpture and the most important surviving Tibetan brass sculpture of any period. The level of craftsmanship is exceptional. Casting bronze in the high altitude of the Tibetan plateau was a technically challenging process. Sculptors would, therefore, usually make portions seperately and bolt them together. So skilled was the sculptor(s) of The Figure of Canda Vajrapani, however, that from the front it appears as a seamless single casting.
Vajrapani is one of Buddhism's main protector gods. Originating as the Indian Vedic deity, Indra, in the first millennium BCE, his role evolved over the centuries to become that of protector, safeguarding Buddhist teachings and practitioners, and suppressing obstacles, inner or outer, that might block ones path to enlightenment.
One of Ulrich von Schroeder's many achievements has been to give international prominence to the religious leader regarded as the most charismatic of all Tibetan artists, Choying Dorje, the Tenth reincarnate Karampa, head of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Choying Dorje was both an exceptional artist and sculptor as seen in the two works in this sale. Discussed in a brilliant catalogue essay contributed by Huang Chunhe, Researcher at The Capital Museum, Beijing, the painting, Marpa receives the Poet-Saint Milarepa, shows the influence of Chinese Chan Buddhism which taught that enlightenment could be unlocked through the pursuit of mindfulness during the routine tasks of daily life. The great Tibetan teacher Marpa and his entourage are shown, not as lofty hierarchs engaged in interior spiritual pursuits, but as quirky, yet ordinary people breaking bread together. Choying Dorje spent thirty years in exile from Tibet, within the Chinese province of Yunnan, which had a strong tradition of Chan Buddhism.
The enigmatic Composite Figure of Vajrapani and Kubera, also ascribed to Choying Dorje, is one of Tibetan art's most famous sculptures. This key work, which bears the hallmarks of Choying Dorje's whimsical style and visionary iconography, has been in the von Schroeder collection for more than 20 years. All Tibetan Buddhist sculpture is made for religious purposes. The depiction of the Buddha, deities or monks has to follow a set of prescriptions which governed appearance, posture and the implements that identified him or her. Only a top-ranking Lama such as Choying Dorje, drawing on his meditations and visions, could deviate from the rules. This makes the statue very rare indeed. The composite figure is holding the diamond-sceptre associated with Vajrapani in one hand and, in the other, a mongoose which traditionally accompanies Kubera. Kubera is the God of wealth and the mongoose is said to disgorge gems when he squeezes its tummy.
Edward Wilkinson, Bonhams Executive Director in Asia, said, "Ulrich von Schroeder is unrivalled in his field. For more than 50 years of study and field research, he has painstakingly compiled definitive references on Tibetan sculpture. Bonhams is privileged to offer these three treasured, peerless masterpieces from his personal collection."
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
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