The forthcoming Asian Works of Art Auction in September comprises of two extraordinary private collections – the first being, The Kaspiev Price Collection of Himalayan Art and the second, The Alexandra and Leigh Copeland Collection.
Boris Kaspiev and Richard Price began collecting Himalayan Buddhist and Bon devotional art in the 1990s. All good collections are formed with self-imposed guidelines, and those applied in this case included rarity and original condition.
Take this rare diminutive bronze figure of Acala (or a wrathful Manjushri). This early Tibetan personal devotional figure, circa 12th century, is captured in a wonderfully dynamic pose as if in the middle of battle, sword held aloft, and with wonderful remnant polychrome and cold gilding to the face.
Of even greater note in the current market, a wonderful Chinese gilt-bronze and champlevé enamelled altar piece, dating to the Qianlong or at latest Jiaqing period (dated from the particular style of the double lotus base beneath the figure, and with the foliate detailing within the lotus petals). This object is almost without doubt imperial and from Beijing, being either made for use within one of the temples in the Forbidden City or one of the temples in wider Beijing under Imperial patronage.
The collection also features a number of powerful repousse fragments, including some from the now destroyed Densatil monastery in Tibet, a monastery famous for its art made by Nepalese Newari craftsmen, who were brought into Tibet for their exemplary craftsmanship.
The Alexandra and Leigh Copeland Collection
Much of the Copelands’ collection was formed decades ago through travelling and trading on the original hippy trail, in India and Afghanistan in the 70s and 80s, bringing their acquisitions back to Melbourne to sell to a hungry audience of cultured collectors.
That was in many ways a golden age, where travel in the region was relatively safe, as the advance of modernity was bridging cultures and allowing cross-pollination of ideas and ways of life, and before all the problems ravaged the land.
Amongst the collection are Rajasthani applique and embroidered textiles, Indian wooden sculptures and figurative architectural fragments/fittings, Turkoman silver gilt jewellery and rare Indian reverse-glass paintings.
The Indian wooden carvings are of great interest, particularly in terms of provenance, being personally bought and rescued from sad old houses that were being demolished to make way for modernity in the 1970s, under the facilitation and auspices of the Gujarati handicraft association.
Lastly, an extremely rare, inscribed and dated room size carpet commissioned by an Afghan prince in 1857, before ultimately becoming King.
I would like to leave you with some photos taken by and of the Copelands in Afghanistan in the 1970s, as a taste of an innocent time past, never to be regained, a time which informed the spirit of their warm and wonderful collection.