Extraordinary sculptures, bronzes and paintings from China, India, Mongolia, Nepal and Tibet will be amongst the fine Asian works of art on offer at Rossi & Rossi’s Stand B15 and B16 at Guardian Fine Art Asia in Beijing, the China’s leading annual fine art and antiques fair. Held at the newly inaugurated Guardian Art Centre, the event runs from 25 to 29 October 2017.
Highlights will include a spectacular near life-size painting of a Lioness accompanied by two emissaries who are offering the proud creature as tribute to the Chinese court. Running along the top of the painting, is a prose-poem entitled, ‘The Imperial Rhapsody on Lions’ (Yuzhi shizi fu 御制獅子賦). Purported to have been written by the Chenghua emperor himself (1464–1487), the writing is dated to year 1483 of the Chenghua Period. Despite its huge scale, the painting is masterfully executed with draughtsmanship of great fluidity and immediacy. Understated layers of subtle colour and thin coats of pigment depict the creature’s plush fur, while the two emissaries who accompany it have delicately drawn and shaded faces, distinctly different in appearance and dress. Arching over them, exquisitely painted trees, alive with birds, form the background partially framing the scene. The tree is composite: sprays of fruiting peach boughs with rounded leaves, apparently spring from the gnarled branches of a tree with small yew-like evergreen leaves. The colours are blended in soft tones. Descriptions of this specific event can be found in the History of the Ming Dynasty (Mingshi 明史), under the section headed Samarkand. Ravishing as a work of art—of impressive scale, definitively dated and marvellously preserved – this remarkable painting is also blessed with a direct connection to the Imperial collection.
Also on offer is an exquisite late 17th- to early 18th-century Mongolian gilt copper sculpture of Chagan Sambhar-a with painted details. Originally exhibited in 2004 by Rossi & Rossi in Treasures from Mongolia: Buddhist Sculpture from the School of Zanabazar – the first-ever commercial exhibition devoted to Mongolian bronzes – and published in its eponymous catalogue, the work is now back on the market. The sculpture is a rare depiction of the benevolent form of Samvara, a popular tutelary for patron deities of Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism, known as Sitasamvara or White Samvara. Seated on a double-lotus pedestal, the figure has two arms and one head, and embraces his consort, Vajravarahi (their union symbolising the merging of compassion and wisdom). Sitasamvara holds two vases filled with the elixir for immortality, while Vajravarahi clutches two skull cups. Both deities are beautifully crowned, coiffed and bejewelled. Traces of paint remain on their hair and faces, highlighting their full lips and gently curving eyelids. At 24 cm (9 ½ in) in height, this is a relatively large example of Mongolian bronze production, and is in excellent condition.
From 15th-century Tibet, an exceptional bronze sculpture of a Portrait of a Lama is another highlight of the fair. Standing at 15.5 cm (6 in) in height, the lama is seated in full lotus posture, holding his left hand before his abdomen in dhyana mudra; right hand placed on his knee in bhumisparsha mudra. The figure has a round yet contoured face, short hair and arched eyebrows. His nose is tall and refined, eyes looking forward and with elongated ears. He is depicted serenely, with a gentle smiling expression. These features are often seen in depictions of Phagmodrupa and Taklung Kagyu’s gurus. The sculpted body is stout and firm, dressed in a waistcoat and a kasaya covering his left shoulder. The garments are decorated with parallel lines on the edges, demonstrating a simple but expressive aesthetic. The double-lotus pedestal is decorated with beaded lines and remains ungilded.
Rossi & Rossi will also be exhibiting a number of paintings from China and Tibet, including a 17th-century Sino-Tibetan work depicting Arhat Vanavasin. Here, he is shown in his usual iconographic form: making a pointing gesture with his right hand and holding a fly whisk in his left. He is dressed in a red and blue patchwork robe featuring rich brocade patterns. To his right stands a lay attendant holding a scholars’ rock, and at the top centre of the composition is the Buddhist meditational deity, White Tara. The painting would have been part of a set representing the Sixteen Great Arhats, along with the Buddha Shakyamuni, the attendant Dharmatala, the patron Hvashang and the Four Directional Guardian Kings. The set of paintings to which this work belongs was almost certainly based on an earlier group of Chinese imperial workshop paintings dating from the Yongle period (1403–25) depicting the same subject. Later Tibetan artists likely created numerous sets of arhat paintings based on Yongle period examples. The colour and contour of the present work’s landscapes show a clear affinity with the classical blue-green style of painting that can be traced back to the Tang period (618–907).
Also on offer is a selection of sculptures from India and Gandhara, including a finely carved fragmentary Buddha frieze, dating to 2nd to 3rd century Gandhara. Carved in high relief, the work shows the Buddha seated in meditation upon a tapering lotus pedestal; he wears a typical robe that exposes his right shoulder. His hands are placed in dharmachakra mudra, indicating the turning of the wheel of the law, and he looks straight at the viewer, his expression calm and contemplative. The Buddha is framed by two standing bodhisattvas and additional smaller figures. Each bodhisattva has a plain circular nimbus that frames his head, and wears flowing robes and decorative amulet necklaces. They both hold a thick garland of flowers as they look slightly downwards and towards the Buddha seated between them. Positioned above the right shoulder of the Buddha is a group of small figures, including additional seated representations of the Buddha and a bodhisattva, perhaps indicating that the frieze depicts the Miracle at Sravasti – when the Buddha displayed his power by performing miracles, including creating replicas of himself, before a gathering of heretical masters. The frieze was purchased in 1964 by the then-US ambassador to Pakistan, Walter P. McConaughy, who was a specialist in the Far East for the State Department.