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A lineage portrait thangka of the Ninth and Tenth abbots of Ngor monastery, Southern Tibet, Ngor monastery, circa 1557. Distemper on cloth/ Image: 33 3/4 x 30 3/4 in. (85.7 x 76.3 cm); With later silks: 51 x 32 1/2 in. (129.5 x 82.6 cm). Estimate: $800,000-1,200,000 (€700,000 – 1.1 million). Photo: Bonhams.

NEW YORK, NY.- Himalayan masterpieces from the 14th to 16th century will lead Bonhams’ Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art auction on March 16.

The star lot is a magnificent lineage portrait thangka of the Ninth and Tenth Abbots from Ngor monastery from a distinguished private European collection. New to the market, it is estimated at between $800,000 and $1,200,000. The thangka, made circa 1557, is an extremely rare example of 16th century painting from Central Tibet. The distemper-on-cloth work is boldly colored using a primary palette with heavy gold outlining and presents the central figures seated next to each other. The composition is framed by the abbots of the Ngor order and is inscribed at the bottom, commemorating the ascendancy of the Eleventh abbot. Unlike other portrait thangkas, this one has a deeper, secondary purpose; the positioning of the three deities directly above the two abbots suggest that it was made to help initiate the viewer into the esoteric teachings of the central deity, Rakta Yamari. Whereas most Ngor portraits were part of sets, this suggests that the Bonhams’ double portrait was a special commission.


A gilt copper alloy figure of Chakrasamvara, Tibet, 15th century, 9 in. (22.8 cm) high. Estimate: $500,000 – 700,000 (€440,000 – 620,000). Photo: Bonhams.

An outstanding gilt copper alloy figure of the prominent composite deity, Chakrasamvara, expected to fetch between $500,000 and $700,000, comes from the same private European collection. The masterpiece depicts the eponymous twelve-armed male deity and the female deity, Vajravarahi, locked in a passionate embrace. He embodies compassion and she wisdom. The union of these two qualities presents the most important transcendental ideal expressed in Buddhist art, supreme enlightenment. The sculpture is expertly detailed and both figures are beautifully gilded and embellished with jewelry.


A large thangka of Shakyamuni, West Tibet, 14th century; 82 1/2 x 41 in. (209.5 x 104.1 cm). Estimate: $300,000 – 500,000 (€260,000 – 440,000). Photo: Bonhams.

A large thangka of Shakyamuni, from Western Tibet and dated 14th century, is another important lot (est. $300,000 – 500,000). Measuring 82.5 by 41 inches, the thangka is one of the largest surviving Tibetan paintings from any period. Tibetan Buddhists regard Shakyamuni as the single greatest authority on the Buddhist teachings. This thangka depicts Buddha on a throne in the act of teaching and flanked by his two of his closest disciples, Shariputra and Maudgalyayana.


A gilt copper alloy deity from a Vajrabhairava shrine, Tibeto-Chinese, Yongle period, early 15th century; 10 7/8 in. (27.5 cm) high; 13 3/4 in. (35.2cm) wideEstimate: $250,000 – 350,000 (€220,000 – 310,000). Photo: Bonhams.

Another standout lot, a Yongle-period gilt copper alloy deity from a Vajrabhairava shrine, comes from a private English collection and is estimated at $250,000 – 350,000. It is an early 15th-century depiction of Surya (the Sun god) that belongs to a set of eight Hindu deities, which would have occupied the front edge of a throne for a monumental sculpture of Vajrabhairava. Out of this group of eight, five others have either sold at auction or are in museum collections, making this sculpture extremely desirable. The deity is large, depicted in a powerful and unique pose. He wears an expression of fierce attention. The rich gilding, exquisite modeling and jewelry arrangement are typical of renowned Buddhist sculpture of the Yongle-period.

Edward Wilkinson, Consultant at the Indian, Himalayan & South East Asian department at Bonhams said, “At the core of this auction are a group of extremely important masterpieces of Himalayan painting and sculpture that are fresh to the market. Supported by a diverse and rare group of works from across the South Asian region, the sale taps into a particularly buoyant market. Buddhist art in particular is enjoying broad international appeal and the market for this genre has risen dramatically over the past five years.

The auction will begin at 4pm.