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Catalog Data

Silver, turquoise, gilt copper, coral, mother-of-pearl, and lapis lazuli
H x W x D: 58.4 × 30.5 × 27.8 cm (23 × 12 × 10 15/16 in)
probably Dolonnor, Mongolia
late 18th-early 19th century
1936 or 1937-1938
Theos Casimir Bernard (1908-1947), acquired in Lhasa or India [1]
Viola Wertheim Bernard (1907-1998), upon divorce from Theos Casimir Bernard [2]
Estate of Viola Wertheim Bernard
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]
[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
Arthur M. Sackler Collection
Exhibition History:
The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room (March 12, 2022 - ongoing)
Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice Across Asia (October 14, 2017 to February 6, 2022)
Doorway to an Enlightened World: The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection (March 19 to November 27, 2016)
The Tibetan Shrine from the Alice S. Kandell Collection (March 13, 2010 to November 27, 2016)
Previous custodian or owner:
Theos Casimir Bernard (1908-1947)
Viola Wertheim Bernard (1907-1998)
Alice S. Kandell
casting  Search this
gilding  Search this
inlay (process)  Search this
metal  Search this
silver  Search this
Buddhism  Search this
Buddha  Search this
Mongolia  Search this
South Asian and Himalayan Art  Search this
Alice S. Kandell Collection  Search this
Shakyamuni Buddha  Search this
Credit Line:
The Alice S. Kandell Collection
Accession Number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
On View:
Sackler Gallery 26a: The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room
Related Online Resources:
Google Cultural Institute
See more items in:
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Collection
Data Source:
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery