Magnificent 3rd Century Buddha leads spectacular collection of Claude de Marteau at Bonhams Paris

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A grey schist Buddha sculpted in the ancient region of Gandhara during the 3rd century. Estimate: €500,000-700,000.

Paris – A grey schist Buddha sculpted in the ancient region of Gandhara during the 3rd century leads the sale of The Collection of Claude de Marteau, Part I, in Paris on Tuesday 14 June. It is estimated at €500,000-700,000.

Gandhara sat at the crossroads of Eurasian trade networks linking East, Central, and South Asia with the Near East and the Mediterranean. (The area corresponds roughly to modern northwest Pakistan and southern Afghanistan). It was in Gandhara, in the first century CE, that artists trained in Greco-Roman aesthetics produced some of the earliest sculptures of the Buddha.

The Collection, which has an estimated value of more than €10 million, is a unique assemblage of art gathered over several decades by the late dealer and collector, Claude de Marteau. Much of it has never been seen in public. It spans works created over a period of 1,500 years in the Hindu and Buddhist cultures that once flourished in India, Nepal, Tibet and China.

This sale is the first in a series of four auctions of 400 treasures from Claude de Marteau’s collection. A further sale will take place in Hong Kong on 3 October 2022 with the remaining two sales being held in Paris and Hong Kong during 2023. 

Edward Wilkinson, Bonhams Global Head of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art, said: “The collection of Claude de Marteau is a triumph, with superlative artworks from Tibet, Nepal, India and Southeast Asia. The pieces exhibit superb workmanship and, as with Christian altarpieces, have a beauty and appeal extending beyond their initial religious functions. This magnificent collection invites people to approach the art of each period and place with a fresh eye and an open mind and to recognise these exquisite artefacts as wonderful artistic jewels of global significance.”

Other highlights of the Paris sale include:

  • Gilt copper alloy figure of Buddha, from Nepal, Khasa Malla, 13th/14th century. 31.5 cm high. Estimate: €300,000-500,000.
  • Copper alloy figure of Maitreya, from theSwat Valley, 7th century19.8 cm high. Estimate: €180,000-240,000.
  • Schist head of Buddha from theancient region of Gandhara, 3rd/4th century. 48 cm highEstimate: €150,000-200,000.
  • A 12th century brass figure of Kapaladhara Hevarja embracing his consort Nairatma from Northeast India. The work dates from the Pala period, considered one of the golden eras of Bengali history and art, noted for the skill and flair of its sculptors. The small size of this statue –14.5 cm – suggests that it was intended for private devotional use and could be easily carried by pilgrims.  Estimate: €120,000-160,000.
  • Gilt copper alloy triad of Padmasambhava and his consorts, Mandarava and Yeshe Tsogyal, Tibet, circa 17th century. 24 cm (9 1/2 in) high. Estimate: €100,000-150,000.
  • Gilt copper alloy figure of Vajradhara, Tibet, Khasa Malla, 14th century
    22.5 cm high. €80,000-120,000.
  • Schist figure of atlas, ancient region of Gandhara, 3rd/4th century, 51 cm high. Estimate: €80,000-120,000

About Claude de Marteau

As a young man, Claude de Marteau stumbled upon the art that was to be his lifelong passion while he was on an extended trip through Afghanistan, over the Hindu Kush to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.  Entirely self-taught, he became a respected dealer and an eminent authority on Tibetan, Nepalese, Indian and Southeast Asia art. He was renowned for his ‘great eye and intrinsic aesthetic sensibility’, in the words of his friend, the museum curator and scholar of southeast Asian and Himalayan art and culture, Dr. Pratapaditya Pal.

Pieces sourced by Claude de Marteau can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – including a Buddha image of the Gupta period in India from Sarnath – Cleveland Museum of Art and the Asian Art Museum.

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