Shakyamuni Buddha in a full shrine

Historical period(s)
late 18th-early 19th century
Medium
Silver, turquoise, gilt copper, coral, mother-of-pearl, and lapis lazuli
Dimensions
H x W x D: 58.4 × 30.5 × 27.8 cm (23 × 12 × 10 15/16 in)
Geography
Mongolia, probably Dolonnor
Credit Line
The Alice S. Kandell Collection
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S2011.10a-c
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 26a: The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Sculpture
Type

Figure

Keywords
Alice S. Kandell Collection, Buddha, Mongolia
Provenance

1936 or 1937-1938
Theos Casimir Bernard (1908-1947), acquired in Lhasa or India [1]

1938-1998
Viola Wertheim Bernard (1907-1998), upon divorce from Theos Casimir Bernard [2]

1999
Estate of Viola Wertheim Bernard

1999-2011
Alice S. Kandell (through Philip Rudko), purchased from the Estate of Viola Wertheim Bernard [3]

From 2011
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of Alice S. Kandell [4]

Notes:
[1] See acquisition proposal titled “Offered as a gift from Alice S. Kandell to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Art,” undated (ca. 2011), p. 2, copy in object file. The acquisition proposal states “The Dolonnor Shakyamuni was acquired by the anthropologist and explorer Theos Casimir Bernard in 1936 or 1937 in Lhasa or India, where he was studying Hatha Yogic and Tibetan Buddhist texts. It remained in the collection of Bernard’s first wife, Viola Wertheim (1907-1998), after their divorce in 1938. The work was acquired from the estate of Viola Wertheim by Phil Rudko on behalf of Alice Kandell.”

Theos Casimir Bernard (1908-1947) was an American anthropologist and explorer. He studied law at the University of Arizona (BA, 1931), but switched to studying Eastern philosophy and religion at Columbia University (MA, 1934; PhD, 1942). Between 1936 and 1937, Bernard traveled to India (until May 1937) and Tibet where he studied Hatha Yogic and Tibetan Buddhist texts. Bernard was one of the first Westerners to visit Tibet and he wrote about this experience in the book “Penthouse of the Gods: A Pilgrimage into the Heart of Tibet and the Sacred City of Lhasa” (1939). In 1947, Bernard disappeared in northern India while on an expedition to the Ki monastery and was later declared deceased. In addition to documenting his travels in India and Tibet, Bernard also collected hundreds of objects including, textiles, books, jewelry, sculptures, and other various objects.

[2] See note 1. See also curatorial notes titled “Acquisition Meeting Objects- Tombstones and Provenance,” dated January 19, 2010. These notes report that Theos gifted the object to Viola in 1937.

Viola Wertheim Bernard, née Wertheim (1907-1998) was a pioneering social psychiatrist, who specialized in helping adopted and foster children. For over fifty years, Bernard was an influential member of Columbia University’s Psychiatric Center where she served as a researcher, clinician, educator, and mentor. In addition to her illustrious medical career, she was also a tenacious political and social activist. Between 1934 and 1938, she was married Theos Casimir Bernard and she traveled with him to India in 1936, but she returned home to New York before Theos to continue her medical education.

[3] See note 1. Alice S. Kandell is a private collector, who for decades acquired hundreds of bronze sculptures, thangkas, textile banners, painted furniture and ritual implements. Her interest in Tibetan art and culture began during her college years, when she took the first of many trips to Sikkim, Tibet and Ladakh. Throughout her career as a child psychologist in New York, she continued to pursue her love of Tibetan Buddhist sacred art, traveling, collecting and documenting the art and culture of the region in two books of photography, “Sikkim: The Hidden Kingdom” (Doubleday) and “Mountaintop Kingdom: Sikkim” (Norton).

Philip Rudko, born just outside New York City in northern New Jersey, is a Russian Orthodox priest and art conservator, specializing in Tibetan objects. He works with the collector Alice Kandell as the curator of her personal collection.

[4] See Deed of Gift, dated March 18, 2011.

Research Completed December 9, 2022

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Alice S. Kandell
Viola Wertheim Bernard 1907-1998
Theos Casimir Bernard 1908-1947

Published References
  • Marylin M. Rhie, Robert A.F. Thurman. A Shrine for Tibet: The Alice S. Kandell Collection. New York and London. I-11, 70-71.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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