Monumental Imperial Gilt-Bronze Masterpieces to Lead Sotheby’s March Asian Art Auctions

A monumental gilt-bronze figure of Kapaladhara Hevajra, Early Ming Dynasty, Overall Height: 66 cm. (26 in.), Est. $3,000,000- $5,000,000
Art Martin Cid Magazine
Art Martin Cid Magazine

NEW YORK, 30 January 2024 – This March, Sotheby’s is privileged to present extraordinary and diverse collections of Asian art spanning 4,000 years of history. Poised to lead the week-long sale series are two monumental early Ming Imperial bronze masterpieces from the Bodhimanda Foundation. The works will headline Sotheby’s March Asian Art sales on 19 March in a two-lot sale – “Wrathful Deities: Masterworks from the Bodhimanda Foundation” – together expected to achieve more than $7 million.

A monumental gilt-bronze figure of Panjarnata Mahakala, Mark and Period of Xuande, Overall Height: 74 cm. (29 1/8 in.), Est. $4,000,000- $6,000,000
A monumental gilt-bronze figure of Panjarnata Mahakala, Mark and Period of Xuande, Overall Height: 74 cm. (29 1/8 in.), Est. $4,000,000- $6,000,000

These spectacularly large gilt-bronze figures are not only of the highest quality but also exemplify the distinct Yuan-inspired style of the Imperial Ming workshop where they were produced. Already singular masterpieces at the time of their creation and the largest examples of their type ever to appear at auction, they embody one of the finest legacies of that golden era of early 15th-century China, their quality, sculptural beauty, and spiritual power immediately eclipsing the greatest technological advances of the last six centuries.

The Panjarnata Mahakala is by far the largest early Ming reign-marked bronze in private hands, measuring 74 cm. high, outranked only by two Yongle bodhisattvas, one at Qinghai Provincial Museum, the other at the Cernuschi Museum in Paris. The sheer power and adamantine casting of the protector deity marks it out as one of the greatest Imperial Tibeto-Chinese bronzes of the early Ming dynasty. The Kapaladhara Hevajra is also of exceptional size, measuring 66 cm. high, and coupled with its extraordinary tour-de-force of quality is unparalleled in any museum or private collection.

Full auction proceeds will benefit the Bodhimanda Foundation to raise funds to secure a permanent museum display for its Buddhist art collection. Public access to the collection is critical to the Bodhimanda Foundation’s mission to spread knowledge about the material and immaterial culture of Tantric Buddhism.

Gifted to the Bodhimanda Foundation in 2011, the gilt-bronze figures of Kapaladhara Hevajra and Panjarnata Mahakala will be on public view at Sotheby’s Hong Kong from 5 – 7 February for the first time since they were most recently displayed together at the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam from 2011 to 2020. The figure of Kapaladhara Hevajra was previously exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2012.

A public exhibition at Sotheby’s New York will be held from 14 – 18 March ahead of the highly anticipated two-lot auction on 19 March.

Additional highlights from Sotheby’s annual March Asian Art auctions will be announced in due course.

“We are honored to offer these superlative gilt-bronze masterpieces to commence our annual March Asian Art auction series. Both are of superb quality and endowed with truly adamantine power. They are also both of extraordinary size, the Mahakala by far the largest early Ming reign-marked bronze in private hands.  We are privileged to have been selected by the Bodhimanda Foundation to find a new home for these two masterpieces, thereby raising funds to house their full collection in a new home.”

Julian King, Sotheby’s International Specialist and Head of Sale, Himalayan Art, New York
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