Rare Dali Kingdom gilded bronze Avalokiteshvara sculpture

The preparations for the hammer auction Fine Art & Antiques at Stockholms Auktionsverk are in full swing, and submissions are still underway. Amongst the many treasured objects already listed, one shines exceptionally bright with its striking presence – a rare gilded bronze Avalokiteshvara in a multiarmed tantric form from the Dali Kingdom.

“There are very few sculptures like this still existing today, and even fewer available on the market. In fact, there are only two known versions of this particular Avalokiteshvara portrayal in the world. This figure comes from a private Swedish collector, the managing director Toivo Ekman (1905-1976), thence by descent. We discovered this rare piece not long ago, and it was fascinating to realize exactly how unique it is. Our consulting experts had never encountered such an exquisite buddha before”, says Elisabet Fellbom, specialist in Asian arts and crafts at Stockholms Auktionsverk.

The Bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara, is here rendered in a tantric multiarmed form, sitting dressed in a robe draped over his knees and legs – eyes looking straight forward and beautifully adorned in necklaces, bracelets, and an elaborately embellished tiara with flowers and jewel ornaments. His twenty-two hands hold many symbolic attributes: the sun and the moon, lotus buds, lotus flowers, a rosary, a miraculous lasso, a vajra, a bell, a wheel, a holy water pot in the Indian kundika shape, a willow-branch, a large ring, a shield, a sword, and his main hands in prayer and adoration.

The sculpture is originally from the Yunnan Province in China, dated to the Dali Kingdom (937–1253) and measures 30 cm in height. This rare and significant gilded bronze sculpture, recently discovered and identified in a Swedish private collection, belongs to a small group of esoteric multiarmed representations of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara – known from only a few parallels in public collections. One is currently located in Singapore at the Asian Civilisations Museum, a version that displays features dated to the 10th century. However, this exquisite version now up for auction stands out in its remarkable rendering of the Bodhisattva’s robe, which seems to hang down freely – stylistically comparable to sculptures from the late Tang. Initially, there was most likely an elevated throne, now lost, which is obligatory for most Dali sculptures. Additional arms are to be assumed from the protuberant arrangement at the back of the statue. The aesthetical similarities are very much in line with the portrayed Avalokiteshvara, dated to the 11th–12th century, that is presented in the collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum. The asking price is set at 500 000–600 000 SEK.

Another highlight amongst the Asian objects in the catalog is a gilt bronze Avalokiteshvara, from the same collection that belonged to Toivo Ekman. Slightly smaller in size, measuring 24 cm in height, seated in royal ease and adorned with elaborate beaded jewelry and a crown centered by the figure of Amitabha Buddha, dated Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The asking price is set at 100 000–150 000 SEK.

As well as a rare blue and white brushpot, “Bitong”, with Kangxi mark and of the period 1662–1722. The pot exterior is skilfully painted with a continuous scene depicting a standing dignitary and a seated lady on a terrace, accompanied by young attendants holding fans – all within a landscape of trees, rockwork, and scudding clouds. The brush pot measures 15 cm in height and 17,3 cm in diameter.
The asking price is set at 700 000–900 000 SEK.

Finally, Stockholms Auktionsverk presents a rare Imperial gilt-bronze cabinet lock, formed of two removable parts, the lock is cast in high relief on each side with dragons confronting a ‘flaming pearl’ amidst cloud-scrolls. The reign marks cast on the inner face of the lock below the horizontal bar, accompanied with a lock pin, Qianlong six-character mark, and of the period (1736-1795), the length of the lock measures 29 cm. (To be compared with a pair of very similar imperial locks, sold at Christie’s, Hong Kong on December 1st 2010, as lot 3016.) The asking price is set at 200 000–300 000 SEK.

The last Stockholms Auktionsverk Fine Art & Antiques auction of the year will be held on December 5–6th at Nybrogatan 32 in Stockholm. The auction is also open for online bidding, all items will be published online on November 17th.

Stockholms Auktionsverk would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Karl Gunnar Gardell for his thorough expertise and for composing the script and background of the rare Avalokiteshvara from Dali Kingdom.

The auction catalogue is published on auktionsverket.com on November 17th.

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5–6 December at Nybrogatan 32, Stockholm

29 November–4 December at Nybrogatan 32, Stockholm

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