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CHAPTER The Arts of South and Southeast

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EXCERPTED FROM:
APPRAISING ART The Definitive Guide to Appraising Fine and Decorative
Art, Hudson Hills Press: 2012
The Arts of South and Southeast Asia
By Dr. Michael Cohn
The arts of ancient Asia can be roughly divided into two zones: the Indian and
Chinese cultural spheres. The first group encompasses the East Asian nations
of China, Japan, and Korea. East Asian art has been prized by Western
collectors for the past several centuries, and its aesthetic, especially in the
decorative arts, is generally found more often and understood. The arts of
Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, usually including the Himalayan
region, are a bit less understood. This area began to attract serious scholarly
interest in the West in the nineteenth century, but it is only in the post war period
that it has become a popular collecting field. There are still many aspects of this
art that are not fully understood,; however there are ways to recognize and
evaluate this material.
Recognizing the object’s subject matter or purpose is the first step. One key
factor is that much of the material is associated with the religious practices of
these countries. Buddhism and Hinduism play a prominent role. Much of the
sculptureare remains of architectural structures and individual icons.
In Southeast Asian and early India subcontinent, you will see figures of the
Buddha in different positions and with different hand postures. The earliest
pieces are in aniconic images used to represent the Buddha; you will see a
throne or a royal umbrella as a symbol of the Buddha. By the first Century, the
Buddha was represented in a human form. In the Gandhara region of India ,
Pakistan and Afghanistan , images with Roman –like robes and faces like Apollo
would be found. Details such as wavy hair pulled back ina bun like style or snail
shaped curls would indicate the figure is a Buddha. These uniquecombination of
body forms and details enable recognition of the Gandhara style. Later in India a
style know as Gupta style developed. Here again facial features and the body
became a template for styles to be carried to early Southeast Asia. By the
post12th Century period, in the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Burma,
Sri Lanka and Cambodia, these Buddhia figures are the dominant forms. While
figures are often found, serving vessels and temple decorations will also be
found. Fanciful scrolling details will be seen. Many of the objects are gilded.
In India, the Hindu deities dominate the collectibles market. The multi-armed
figures often with animals associated will be found. Deities such as Shiva,
Vishnu, Brama, Kali, Ganesha are recognized by objects that they hold in their
hands and the associated figures found within the sculptural ensemble. While
there are many forms of each of these deities, key objects such as Shiva holding
a trident , a three prong spear or Vishnu holding a conch shell ,assist in
recognizing them. And in the case the of Ganesha , the pot belly and elephant
head on a human body enables an easier identification. In post 13th
Century
India we also start to see Islamic influences in architectural remains and
household objects. But the prohibition of the human form limits the sculptural
realm. The big exception is Indian miniatures. These paintings usually on paper
the size of notebooks are highly prized.
The Himalayan region is categorized with South Asian antiquities. Here the
Lamanistic Buddhism often known as Tibetan Buddhism dominates with most
objects coming post 12 th Century. In this region, we have the fantastic images
with multi arms and legs and ferocious faces along with other Buddhist deities.
Frequently found are paintings known as thankas in this market.
Recognizing the materials used is helpful in categorizing the work. Stone,
bronze, terracotta, wood, silver and stucco are the dominant materials, each
region and time period being known for a more usual material.
In Indian sculpture much of the work is either stone, terracotta or bronze.
Sandstone and schist are the principle stones. Their colors will help with
identifying regions and periods. In the Gandhara region of 1st
to 4th
Century the
material is often a green, gray, and black schist but we also see stucco and
terracotta images of deities. (example below) In India proper we see sandstone
more often with exceptions in Northeast India of the 9th
to 12th
Century where a
black schist is used frequently. A red sandstone is associated often with Gupta
sculpture. Earlier pieces in general are most often found in stone. Bronzes are
less often found pre 8th
Century and thus more valued. As time goes on, they are
more frequently found and still valued depending upon their age, condition and
region Bronzes of South India associated with Chola and Vijayanaga periods
are highly prized. We encounter such images of Shiva, Vishnu , etc as separate
standing objects that were used in rituals. They would be mounted on platforms
and paraded around communities and in temple precincts. Also, individual
bronze figures are also prized from the Northeast regions of India of the 9th
-12
Century.
Example 1 Figure of Buddha, Gandhara Pakistan/ India 2nd/3rd Century
Gray Schist, 20.75 ins A figure of a Buddha standing on a plinth centered by a
scene of Buddha in adoration. He is wearing voluminous robes cascading fron
the shoulders. his face is round and in a meditative expression. He has tightly
curled hair and a domed usnisha the cranial perturberance) indciative of his
enlightened state.
Example 2 Shiva and Parvati, India , 10th
Century Schist A stele with the
grouping of Shiva with his consort Parvati, Also not Ganesha in the bottom left
corner. Also not the bull, Shiva’s vehicle.
Southeast Asian objects often are in bronze. In 18th
/19th
Centtury Burma you find
marble and wood in larger numbers while in early period stone would be the
most often encountered material. In Thailand bronze is most frequently found.
(Example below). There are images of stone also. Cambodian material is most
prized from the Angkor and pre Angkor period before the 13 th Century and here
we find most often stone objects. While there are bronze objects, they are usually
less than 8 inches and wood is rarely found. Wood perishes easily and although
used in ancient times not found frequently. There is a ceramic industry in
Southeast Asia and terracottas and pottery are found. There is little painting
found. Although the sculptural pieces were often gilded and painted, much of the
painting is associated with book or manuscript works or wall painting.
Example 3 Large Seated Buddha, Thailand, 14th/15th Century, Bronze,
30.5 ins 34 in (with finial) (h) A very fine figure of the Buddha seated in
meditation asana on the remains of a lotus base. His right hand is in the Earth-
touching gesture (bhumisparsa mudra), while the left hand is in a meditation
gesture (dhyana mudra). His oval shaped face, reflecting both the Sukhothai and
Lan Na influences, is well formed with delicate mouth and fine nose. He has the
long ear lobes characteristics of the Buddha as well as snail-shaped hair curls,
arranged in rows leading to a domed ushnisha (a raised top section of head
indicating his enlightened state), another characteristic of the Buddha. His eyes
are downcast in deep meditation. He wears a close fitting sanghati (robe) draped
on his left shoulder with a sash and leaving his right shoulder bare. The piece is
a fine example of the great casting period in Northern Thailand of the Lan Na
style.
In the Himalayas much of the sculpture is in bronze while the paintings are on
cotton or silk in bright colors (Example below).
Example 4 One of Six Tibetan Thankas of the Arhats, Tibet, 18th/19th
Century, Cotton, Paint, 24.75 in x 16.75 in This set of six thankas is in the
style and made from woodblock prints at Narthang Monastery in Tsang, Central
Tibet. The series consists of six thankas each with several arhats or lokapalas (
Guardians of the Directions). Included are Ajita, Kalika, and Vajraputa;
Dharmatala and two lokopalas, Virupaksa (West) and Vaisravana (North);
Kanakavatsa, Cudapanthaka and two other figures; Pindolabharadvaja, Abheda,
Gopaka and Nagasena; Hva-sang and two lokapalas, Virudhaka (South) and
Dhrtarastra (East); Rahula and two other figures. All the figures inhabit a rich
landscape with green colored mountains and deep blue sky. Each is mounted in
a silk brocade border decorated with embroidered gold symbols and with original
wooden rollers.
The value of South and Southeast Asia objects is determined by a complex
array of factors that can often seem confusing to the appraiser as well as the
collector. After identifying the piece, basically, valuing can be boiled down to
three major characteristics of each work: the 1-material state of the piece; 2-the
historical association of the piece; and 3-aesthetic or artistic merit of the object.
Material characteristics are important in that certain materials are representative
of the period and denote importance of the object. As mentioned, certain
materials are to be expected and thus the material, of which the work is made, is

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CHAPTER The Arts of South and Southeast

  • 1. EXCERPTED FROM: APPRAISING ART The Definitive Guide to Appraising Fine and Decorative Art, Hudson Hills Press: 2012 The Arts of South and Southeast Asia By Dr. Michael Cohn The arts of ancient Asia can be roughly divided into two zones: the Indian and Chinese cultural spheres. The first group encompasses the East Asian nations of China, Japan, and Korea. East Asian art has been prized by Western collectors for the past several centuries, and its aesthetic, especially in the decorative arts, is generally found more often and understood. The arts of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, usually including the Himalayan region, are a bit less understood. This area began to attract serious scholarly interest in the West in the nineteenth century, but it is only in the post war period that it has become a popular collecting field. There are still many aspects of this art that are not fully understood,; however there are ways to recognize and evaluate this material. Recognizing the object’s subject matter or purpose is the first step. One key factor is that much of the material is associated with the religious practices of these countries. Buddhism and Hinduism play a prominent role. Much of the sculptureare remains of architectural structures and individual icons. In Southeast Asian and early India subcontinent, you will see figures of the Buddha in different positions and with different hand postures. The earliest pieces are in aniconic images used to represent the Buddha; you will see a throne or a royal umbrella as a symbol of the Buddha. By the first Century, the Buddha was represented in a human form. In the Gandhara region of India , Pakistan and Afghanistan , images with Roman –like robes and faces like Apollo would be found. Details such as wavy hair pulled back ina bun like style or snail
  • 2. shaped curls would indicate the figure is a Buddha. These uniquecombination of body forms and details enable recognition of the Gandhara style. Later in India a style know as Gupta style developed. Here again facial features and the body became a template for styles to be carried to early Southeast Asia. By the post12th Century period, in the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, these Buddhia figures are the dominant forms. While figures are often found, serving vessels and temple decorations will also be found. Fanciful scrolling details will be seen. Many of the objects are gilded. In India, the Hindu deities dominate the collectibles market. The multi-armed figures often with animals associated will be found. Deities such as Shiva, Vishnu, Brama, Kali, Ganesha are recognized by objects that they hold in their hands and the associated figures found within the sculptural ensemble. While there are many forms of each of these deities, key objects such as Shiva holding a trident , a three prong spear or Vishnu holding a conch shell ,assist in recognizing them. And in the case the of Ganesha , the pot belly and elephant head on a human body enables an easier identification. In post 13th Century India we also start to see Islamic influences in architectural remains and household objects. But the prohibition of the human form limits the sculptural realm. The big exception is Indian miniatures. These paintings usually on paper the size of notebooks are highly prized. The Himalayan region is categorized with South Asian antiquities. Here the Lamanistic Buddhism often known as Tibetan Buddhism dominates with most objects coming post 12 th Century. In this region, we have the fantastic images with multi arms and legs and ferocious faces along with other Buddhist deities. Frequently found are paintings known as thankas in this market. Recognizing the materials used is helpful in categorizing the work. Stone, bronze, terracotta, wood, silver and stucco are the dominant materials, each region and time period being known for a more usual material. In Indian sculpture much of the work is either stone, terracotta or bronze. Sandstone and schist are the principle stones. Their colors will help with identifying regions and periods. In the Gandhara region of 1st to 4th Century the material is often a green, gray, and black schist but we also see stucco and terracotta images of deities. (example below) In India proper we see sandstone more often with exceptions in Northeast India of the 9th to 12th Century where a black schist is used frequently. A red sandstone is associated often with Gupta sculpture. Earlier pieces in general are most often found in stone. Bronzes are less often found pre 8th Century and thus more valued. As time goes on, they are more frequently found and still valued depending upon their age, condition and region Bronzes of South India associated with Chola and Vijayanaga periods are highly prized. We encounter such images of Shiva, Vishnu , etc as separate
  • 3. standing objects that were used in rituals. They would be mounted on platforms and paraded around communities and in temple precincts. Also, individual bronze figures are also prized from the Northeast regions of India of the 9th -12 Century. Example 1 Figure of Buddha, Gandhara Pakistan/ India 2nd/3rd Century Gray Schist, 20.75 ins A figure of a Buddha standing on a plinth centered by a scene of Buddha in adoration. He is wearing voluminous robes cascading fron the shoulders. his face is round and in a meditative expression. He has tightly curled hair and a domed usnisha the cranial perturberance) indciative of his enlightened state.
  • 4. Example 2 Shiva and Parvati, India , 10th Century Schist A stele with the grouping of Shiva with his consort Parvati, Also not Ganesha in the bottom left corner. Also not the bull, Shiva’s vehicle. Southeast Asian objects often are in bronze. In 18th /19th Centtury Burma you find marble and wood in larger numbers while in early period stone would be the most often encountered material. In Thailand bronze is most frequently found. (Example below). There are images of stone also. Cambodian material is most prized from the Angkor and pre Angkor period before the 13 th Century and here we find most often stone objects. While there are bronze objects, they are usually less than 8 inches and wood is rarely found. Wood perishes easily and although used in ancient times not found frequently. There is a ceramic industry in Southeast Asia and terracottas and pottery are found. There is little painting found. Although the sculptural pieces were often gilded and painted, much of the painting is associated with book or manuscript works or wall painting.
  • 5. Example 3 Large Seated Buddha, Thailand, 14th/15th Century, Bronze, 30.5 ins 34 in (with finial) (h) A very fine figure of the Buddha seated in meditation asana on the remains of a lotus base. His right hand is in the Earth- touching gesture (bhumisparsa mudra), while the left hand is in a meditation gesture (dhyana mudra). His oval shaped face, reflecting both the Sukhothai and Lan Na influences, is well formed with delicate mouth and fine nose. He has the long ear lobes characteristics of the Buddha as well as snail-shaped hair curls, arranged in rows leading to a domed ushnisha (a raised top section of head indicating his enlightened state), another characteristic of the Buddha. His eyes are downcast in deep meditation. He wears a close fitting sanghati (robe) draped on his left shoulder with a sash and leaving his right shoulder bare. The piece is a fine example of the great casting period in Northern Thailand of the Lan Na style. In the Himalayas much of the sculpture is in bronze while the paintings are on cotton or silk in bright colors (Example below).
  • 6. Example 4 One of Six Tibetan Thankas of the Arhats, Tibet, 18th/19th Century, Cotton, Paint, 24.75 in x 16.75 in This set of six thankas is in the style and made from woodblock prints at Narthang Monastery in Tsang, Central Tibet. The series consists of six thankas each with several arhats or lokapalas ( Guardians of the Directions). Included are Ajita, Kalika, and Vajraputa; Dharmatala and two lokopalas, Virupaksa (West) and Vaisravana (North); Kanakavatsa, Cudapanthaka and two other figures; Pindolabharadvaja, Abheda, Gopaka and Nagasena; Hva-sang and two lokapalas, Virudhaka (South) and Dhrtarastra (East); Rahula and two other figures. All the figures inhabit a rich landscape with green colored mountains and deep blue sky. Each is mounted in a silk brocade border decorated with embroidered gold symbols and with original wooden rollers. The value of South and Southeast Asia objects is determined by a complex array of factors that can often seem confusing to the appraiser as well as the collector. After identifying the piece, basically, valuing can be boiled down to three major characteristics of each work: the 1-material state of the piece; 2-the historical association of the piece; and 3-aesthetic or artistic merit of the object. Material characteristics are important in that certain materials are representative of the period and denote importance of the object. As mentioned, certain materials are to be expected and thus the material, of which the work is made, is
  • 7. some confirmation of its authenticity. Whether the material is precious and unusual will often increase its value when this material is known to be part of the ancient repertoire. The size often determines the value range. With stone pieces as well as with bronzes the larger the piece the more valuable. The exception is when the piece is prized for its intricacy and small size. The patina, or the color and texture of the work’s surface, is an important factor. One wants to find an aged appearance appropriate for the object and time period. This is particularly important with metal objects. The elemental composition contributes certain colors and texture to aged pieces. Copper, zinc, tin , elements usually found in most bronzes, will each add their own particular hue. The mode of production, such as whether an object was made from a reusable mold, greatly affects the value; multiples usually commanding lower values with their corresponding arger numbers and less rarity. The condition of the piece is always considered. While pristine condition for an old object might shed some doubt on its age and true condition, the better the condition the higher the value. Historical characteristics concerning not only the objects original past, the period of its supposed manufacture, but with the evolving historical connections. Whether the object has had its excavation documented, whether there have been scholarly articles published concerning the piece, whether it has been included in exhibitions, all can affect the value. With the changing international regulations on exportation and importation of antiquities, this documentation can severely influence the value. Many museums will not purchase or accept donation of pieces without this documentation. And collectors take these concerns into consideration also. Regarding the actual production period of the piece, the age of the work, the historical period to which it belongs, is a key determining factor. Some equally old pieces are valued differently when associated with a particular culture. Thus we find Gandharan pieces more prized than other regions pieces of that period. And more actively collected. Baphuon period of Angkor Cambodian pieces are more recognized than other Angkorian pieces. Inscriptions or other historical markings influence the value of objects and generally when found add value. Its provenance, or history of ownership – in particular whether it was part of an important collection has been shown to increase the value of an object.. The ambiguous notion of aesthetic characteristics, the degree of artistic skill and imagination that the object exhibits and the sense of proportion, grace, etc. it conveys, contributes to its value. While unlike the more objective characteristics such as the material from which the objects is made or the historical record, aesthetic character is a consensus. However, among collectors ,dealers and specialists there is this consensus. Valuing of these objects, because so often there are few duplicates, becomes a boxing in or setting up parameters of other objects qualities to determine your
  • 8. value. Thus as mentioned the closest object form, country and period begins the process of selecting comparables. Then the qualities of size and material are used to relate one object to the next. Then, we have condition and aesthetics of the object to mix into the comparison. Although as appraisers we are not authenticators, factors concerning the proper and appropriate materials, the provenance, the exhibition history and patina lend support to its value. #