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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Wu

Parisian Views of Asian Art (including Buddhist Sculptures!)

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

I'm back from Paris now! This was a such a wonderful trip to one of the world's most famous cities. I haven't visited Paris since 2016 and it was such an incredible feeling to wander the streets and view all of the city's Asian art offerings. The food, wine and coffee were also exceptional!

I was in Paris for approximately eight days for Printemps Asiatique Paris (aka Asia Week Paris) which ran from June 7th-16th 2023. In addition to the Asian art auctions taking place at Bonhams, Christie's and Sotheby's, there were plenty of Asian art sales at the regional houses and a dealer fair at the legendary Pagoda Paris.

The Pagoda is one of the most famous landmarks for Asian art, not just in Paris, but around the world as well. From 1926 until his death, the Pagoda was the home and gallery to renowned dealer Ching Tsai Loo 盧芹齋 (1880-1957).

Most commonly referred to as C. T. Loo, he was one of the preeminent dealers of Chinese art during the first half of the 20th Century. He was based mostly in Paris, but also had galleries in New York, London, Shanghai and Beijing.

C. T. Loo focused on Chinese sculptures, furniture, porcelain, jade carvings and decorative arts. C. T. Loo had major clients around the world and also sold major objects to institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum in London, and the Musée Guimet in Paris.

Nowadays, the Pagoda is a newly renovated event space. During my visit, it held a temporary Asian art fair shared by approximately ten dealers from the USA, England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

C. T. Loo's Chinese Pagoda within the 8th district of Paris.

Image 1a. C. T. Loo's Pagoda in all its glory within the 8th district of Paris.

My visit to C. T. Loo's Chinese Pagoda within the 8th district of Paris.

Image 1b. An image of me in the Pagoda Pagoda during the Asian art fair.

During trips to Paris, a necessary stop is always the Musée Guimet (more formerly titled the Musée National des arts Asiatique). It is one of the most impressive and important Asian art museums in Europe.

The Guimet houses an incredible collection of Southeast Asian, Japanese, Korean, and Himalayan art. With respect to Chinese art, their imperial porcelain collection is one of the most impressive on the planet.

Front hall of Cambodian Khmer sculptures at the Guimet Museum

Image 2a. Here's a photo of the great hall at the Guimet which includes some of the most important examples of Cambodian Khmer stone sculptures and architectural fragments from the 9th-14th Century.

Chinese Imperial falangcai porcelain from the Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns at the Guimet Museum

Image 2b. With respect to Chinese Imperial porcelain, there's just far too many highlights at the Guimet. However this photo definitely showcases one of my favourite displays!

Here we see a selection of falangcai 珐琅彩 enamelled pieces from the early 18th Century Qing court. Falangcai translates to 'enamelled coloured' wares, and were a rare sub-group of famille rose (pink family) enamelled wares.

Falangcai enamelled pieces were made specifically for the Imperial court and appear very European in their decorative quality. The designs and technology used were introduced by Jesuit priests visiting the Chinese court during the 18th Century.

The falangcai porcelain objects from the cabinet are from the Kangxi (1664-1722), Yongzheng (1723-1735) and Qianlong (1736-1795) reigns.

During this trip to Paris, there was a noticeable focus on Buddhist art at the major auction houses. The majority of these pieces originated from China and the Himalayan region, which includes Tibet, Nepal, and India. I was extremely fortunate to examine so many of the Buddhist art highlights at Bonhams, Sotheby's and Christie's.

15th/16th Century Tibetan gilt bronze figure of Virupa at Bonhams Paris

Image 3a. Many of the top Buddhist artworks in Paris this time was at Bonhams. And one of the most exquisite examples was the cover lot for the The Claude de Marteau Collection, Part III.

Here they had this 15th/16th Century Tibetan gilt bronze figure of Virupa which was estimated at EUR 150,000/250,000. This piece is expertly cast in the round. The figure depicts the historical 9th Century Buddhist master Virupa. He is robust and counterbalanced while leaning backwards. His left arm extends with power while his carefully delineated finger points upwards.

There are incredible details throughout including the turquoise inlays, the draping jewels, and the goat skin rug. This spectacular bronze sold for an incredible EUR 952,900.

15th/16th Century Tibetan gilt bronze figure of Virupa at Bonhams Paris

Image 3a. A reverse view of the Virupa figure further emphasizes how it is well-decorated on all sides.

Base of a 15th/16th Century Tibetan gilt bronze figure of Virupa at Bonhams Paris

Image 3c. And a detail of the base with its incised double vajra (lightening bolts of enlightenment).

8th Century Kashmir copper alloy seated figure of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni at Bonhams Paris

Image 4a. Another wonderful Buddhist figure at Bonhams was this 8th Century Kashmir copper alloy seated figure of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. This is a relatively early depiction of the Buddha in the Kashmir region.

Seated on a tall pedestal with a hidden feline adornment, the depiction of the Buddha is simple, yet elegant. There are rare inlays of silver and bronze throughout, and his hands are in the gesture of teaching. This figure was estimated at EUR 120,000/180,000 and ended up realizing EUR 508,400.

8th Century Kashmir copper alloy seated figure of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni at Bonhams Paris

Image 4b. Some of the fine details of the figure's reverse. The features are quite stunning including the floral patterns in the seat cushion and the whorls in the Buddha's hair.

Chinese Jin Dynasty (1124-1235) wood carved bodhisattva of compassion, Guayin at Bonhams Paris

Image 5. On the Chinese side of Buddhist sculptures during my trip to Paris is this large wood carved figure of the bodhisattva of compassion, Guayin. Dated to the Jin Dynasty (1124-1235), this magnificent sculpture was acquired in Beijing circa 1930 and exhibited in Paris as early as 1932.

Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who chose to remain on the earth to ease humanity's suffering and teach the Buddhist dharma. This figure of Guanyin is in a rare and graceful 'Water Moon' pose.

It was consigned by an important French family and despite some losses to the arms and base, was still estimated at EUR 800,000/1.2 million. After much intense bidding during the auction, this sculpture of Guanyin realized EUR 2.589 million.

There were many more highlights of Buddhist art over at Sotheby's Paris. Here they had three sculptures from the legendary Tibetan Densatil Monastery. Founded in 1198, the monastery is known to house some of the most coveted Buddhist sculptures that were renowned for their size, details and form.

Denastil gilt bronze figure of the Buddhist protector Mahakala at Sotheby's Paris

Image 6. This Denastil gilt bronze figure of the Buddhist protector Mahakala is dated to the early 15th Century and was estimated at EUR 400,000/600,000.

The figure is large and dynamic while standing on top of a supine figure. There are so many incredible details in the figure including his robust body, intricate skull necklaces and detailed jewelry. The backround contains smaller figures of guardians and bodhisattvas. This amazing sculpture of Mahakala sold for EUR 889,000.

Denastil gilt bronze figure of a Buddhist river deity Nagaraja at Sotheby's Paris

Image 7. Another Densatil figure at Sotheby's was this gilt bronze fragment of a Nagaraja. These were cosmic female figures who guarded rivers and oceans. This particular example is from the 15th Century and she is extremely graceful in her features and draping jewelry. She is in the offering pose. The figure sold for EUR 762,000 against an estimate of EUR 400,000/600,000.

Denastil gilt bronze figure of Buddhist deity Hayagriva at Sotheby's Paris

Image 8. And the most exciting and sought after Densatil sculpture at Sotheby's Paris was this magnificent 14th Century gilt bronze figure of Hayagriva. The stunning details include sharp wings on the back, six arms (one of which is holding a large sword), a crown of horse heads, and bare feet standing on a group of snakes.

This figure is the Buddhist wrathful manifestation of compassion and was estimated at EUR 300,000/500,000 because of some condition issues. However, collectors and dealers realized the rarity of this Hayagriva figure which was showcased in the final price of EUR 939,000.

And finally, a mega seafood platter at Perlouse Oyster Bar! I've gotten back to eating (and shucking) oysters about 8 years ago and I always love to try all the regional varietals of whatever country I am visiting!

Oyster platter at Perlouse Oyster Bar in Paris

Image 10. I chose the medium sized oysters from northern France, and the platter included shrimp, cockles and fish pâté. This was such a feast!

Thank you for reading this blog. Next up for me a is (another) trip to Vancouver to prepare for the October Heffel Asian art auction at Heffel Gallery. Hopefully I'll be able to take a quick break in August. And please remember to follow my Asian art adventures on Instagram @anthonywuart!



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