An Appreciation 謹致
T he brilliant gilt-bronze sculptures collected by Jane and Leopold Swergold provide a window into a glorious period of China’s illustrious history, when the Silk Road opened up a channel to foreign influences and enabled the dissemination of Buddhism and its deep artistic traditions into the Middle Kingdom. China would never be the same again.
Each of the twenty-five bronze sculptures in the collection are unique works of art in themselves, endowed with the dynamic elasticity of movement emanating from the sensitivity of the Indian tradition. As a group, they also encapsulate the development, sinicization and maturity of Chinese sculptural art. The Swergold name will, for posterity, be remembered as one of the most important collections of early Chinese Buddhist bronzes, formed by a couple who advanced the understanding of this esoteric field in the West. The collection is remarkable for the prestigious provenances of the sculptures, representing an encyclopedic list of the great names of 20th century Asian art collecting, including Adolphe Stoclet, Christian Humann, Rafi Mottahedeh, Yamanaka Sadajiro, Robert Ellsworth and Ananda Coomaraswamy. It is only appropriate that such unparalleled provenance is associated with a collecting area as important as early Chinese statuary.
It demonstrated great vision for an American couple to focus on this wonderful field, and it is Sotheby’s privilege to present it for exhibition in our New York galleries, providing connoisseurs and visitors alike with an unparalleled opportunity to see early Chinese Buddhist art of a quality rivaling the holdings of the most important museum collections.
絲綢之路對於中國吸收外來文化至關重要。通過絲綢之路，佛教及佛教藝術西宗東漸，在中土迅速發展傳播。Jane 及 Leopold Swergold 伉儷之銅鎏金佛像珍藏恰如一扇窗口，邀人一窺中國佛教史的璀璨與輝煌。
所藏之二十五尊佛像，尊尊獨立，氣韻靈動，寶像莊嚴，展現了中國造像藝術在秉承印度傳統的基礎上逐漸漢化之演變、發展與成熟。是為Swergold伉儷博學敏求，克盡所能，終集不世之蘊集。所藏之珍皆來源極佳，其中不乏諸多上世紀亞洲藝術領域的重要人物，如 Adolphe Stoclet、Christian Humann、山中定次郎、安思遠以及阿南達•庫馬拉斯瓦米等。
The Caretakers of Ancient Chinese Gilt-Bronze Sculptures
S cientists would have us believe that what motivates humans to collect has to do with the deep limbic system of the brain which regulates emotions and motivates behavior. This is done by releasing dopamine in the prefrontal neural system. Maybe.
We like to think that the motivation to collect comes from a variety of sources all adding up to an undefinable pleasure. This pleasure is derived not only from the visual stimuli received but also from the tangible knowledge gained, the quest to learn satisfied. The diligence and patience that is needed to build a collection is always a challenge.
We began our Chinese collecting adventure with mingqi grave goods, which were the easiest to understand. We then moved on to archaic bronzes, captured by the intricacies of their highly developed casting techniques. Paintings followed but after twenty years we continued to be stymied by the subtleties of these wonderful artists. Finally, we discovered Buddhist gilt-bronzes and were enchanted by their spiritual quality, intimate scale and elegance.
Collecting has many collateral benefits, not least of which is interacting with other collectors, enjoying their community, being exposed to highly qualified and intelligent professionals whether curators, academics, dealers or auction house specialists. All of whom have an enthusiasm that is infectious and are willing to share their knowledge.
Robert Harrist Jr. at Columbia University has a mantra ‘articulate the obvious’ when looking at an object. This requires long and hard looking at the object, perhaps trying to draw it; only then can one describe it in minute detail and appreciate the quality of the object. It is a tautology – the more you look, the more you see; the more you see, the more you learn; the more you learn the more you see – and the search for the ‘next great one’ goes on. One’s eye continues to develop. Bob singularly taught us how to look at art.
Amy Poster, Curator Emerita, Asian Art at the Brooklyn Museum, has been from early days a major motivator and supporter of our collecting. More than anyone else she taught us to conduct careful research and reach for the best.
And so what is it about our Buddhist gilt-bronzes that have come to be the heart of our collecting activity? First, we liked what we saw. Eye appeal is maximally important. There is a heightened aesthetic that exceeds outstanding craftsmanship. The objects are comprehensible, approachable, and uniformly elegant. They exhibit a spirituality. Their small scale allows a connection, an intimacy.
Acquiring each piece required that we consider condition, provenance, completeness, iconography and rarity. Most of all each item had to have presence and had to ‘speak to us’. There had to be a direct emotional appeal.
We carefully bought what we loved and what we could afford at the time. The process of learning about these incredible objects as well as being their temporary caretakers has given us immense pleasure.
自我們收藏初期開始，布魯克林博物館亞洲藝術榮譽退休策展人 Amy Poster 一直對我們鼎力支持，並教導我們研究必需謹慎且透徹，精益求精。初與銅鎏金佛造像結緣，首先即是在視覺上被其所吸引。視覺感官對於藝術品尤其重要，美學的內涵及高度，當重於工藝的精湛。此類造像，靈韻悠然，平和易懂，典雅莊重。其小巧的尺寸，更易使人與其產生一種情懷。
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