Sotheby’s will present four stone sculptures from the esteemed Asian private collection, Jingyatang. Exemplary works of art from the Northern Wei through to the Sui Dynasties beautifully illustrate the diverse aesthetics of Buddhist sculpture in China. Jingyatang: Treasures of Buddhist Sculpture will be on view in Sotheby’s New York headquarters from 15 March, alongside over 1,300 other works of art, before it is offered at auction on 20 March at 10:30am.
Angela McAteer, Head of the Chinese Works of Art Department in New York, commented: “American institutions, including many of them here in New York, have a long-standing tradition of building phenomenal Asian art collections around the finest Buddhist sculpture. We are thrilled to introduce four such gems from China this Asia Week New York. Of the highest quality and rarity, these works of art represent the peak of Buddhist sculpture and are, truly, of museum quality.”
An Exceptional and Rare Limestone Relief Carving of an Apsara from the Northern Wei Dynasty, 386 to 534 A.D., is the oldest of the four offerings. Handsomely carved and in wonderful condition, the apsara – an angelic, female creature who appears often for visual context alongside Buddhas and Bodhisattvas – takes center stage, embodying the imagery’s transformation from a South East Asian import to a uniquely Chinese vision. No longer in flight, the grounded figure in a kneeling posture, with a double-halo above her head, radiates serenity, humility and spirituality. Last offered at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in April 1997 from the collection of renowned dealer J.T. Tai, this unique work carries a pre-sale estimate of $1.2/1.5 million.
An Inscribed and Dated Huanghuashi Buddhist Stele from the Eastern Wei Dynasty, dated Xinghe Third Year and corresponding to 541 A.D., is also estimated at $1.2/1.5 million. This sculpture, sold by Yamanaka & Co in Osaka in 1924 and closely related to a huanghuashi stele showcased at the Yurinkan Museum in Kyoto, is notable for its complex composition; the central Buddha, with two smaller Buddhas on his halo, is surrounded by a crowd of bodhisattvas, lions, monks and worshipping figures. The stele’s form is also significant. Initially used for funerary and commemorative purposes, by the 5th century, as the number of Buddhist practitioners rapidly grew, these works of art were used as markers of communal identity, as displayed by this particular example.
Formerly in the collection of the Yurinkan Museum, the Carved Limestone Figure of Bodhisattva is an elegant and striking statue. Measuring 33 inches in height, this figure with fine facial features and stylized draped robes is a beautiful example of the mature artistic style of the Northern Qi dynasty. Published in Saburō Matsubara’s seminal Chinese Buddhist Sculpture from 1966, this work of art carries a pre-sale estimate of $600/800,000.
A Carved Limestone Head of Avalokitesvara from the Sui Dynasty will be the last lot offered in this dedicated sale (estimate $400/600,000). Befitting the bodhisattva of compassion, whose popularity soared in the 6th century as the Sui emperors expanded their empire along China’s western and northern borders, the figure’s face embodies serenity and calm. Purchased from famed Japanese dealers Yamanaka & Co., the sculpture first appeared in Taiwan’s Artist Magazine in December 1998, a year following its exhibition debut at the National Palace Museum in Taipei in 1997; subsequent exhibitions include those at the Hualina County Cultural Center in 1999, the Gaoxiong Municipal Art Museum in 2000 and the Seoul National University Museum of Art in 2007.