A very fine and rare gilt-bronze Densatil 'four dancers' frieze Ming Dynasty, 14th/15th century
Lot 260
A very fine and rare gilt-bronze Densatil 'four dancers' frieze
Ming Dynasty, 14th/15th century
Sold for £181,250 (US$ 284,442) inc. premium

Lot Details
A very fine and rare gilt-bronze Densatil 'four dancers' frieze Ming Dynasty, 14th/15th century A very fine and rare gilt-bronze Densatil 'four dancers' frieze Ming Dynasty, 14th/15th century
A very fine and rare gilt-bronze Densatil 'four dancers' frieze
Ming Dynasty, 14th/15th century
The rectangular frieze heavily yet elegantly cast in high relief with four goddesses dancing on a single-lotus pedestal with a beaded rim, each figure with a serene expression standing with her right leg crossed and head tilted to the left, holding musical instruments and ritual ornaments in four arms, all surmounted by tiaras and wearing long dhotis with a jewelled sash, adorned with large disk earrings and necklaces inlaid with various semi-precious stones, a garland draped across the top of the frieze, fixed stand. The frieze overall 38cm wide x 37cm high x 17cm deep (15in wide x 14 9/16in high x 6¾in deep) (2).

Footnotes

  • 明十四/十五世紀 銅鎏金西藏丹薩替寺四供養天女雕刻飾板

    The spiritual teacher Pagmodrupa Dorje Gyalpo travelled to an area in Tibet near the Northern banks of the Tsangpo river, in the 12th century. Pupils gathered at his side to form a simple monastery originally of grass huts, but after his death in 1170 the monastic complex was enlarged and a temple built; this became known as the Densatil monastery, a centre for the Kagyu sect.

    From the mid 14th century, Densatil was ruled by the Phagmogrupa family, one of the most powerful ruling families of the time. The family sought to extend its influence with a series of high-level gift exchanges with the Chinese emperors, and eventually they came to rule almost all of Tibet. Their wealth and influence is attested by the astonishingly high quality of art produced under their patronage: the Densatil monastery became one of the richest in Tibet, and was renowned in particular for its metalwork and paintings by Newar artists from Nepal. Such pieces can be viewed as being as close to 'Imperial' commissions as was possible in Tibet at the time.

    The complex at Densatil was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, but evidence of its artistic importance and influence can be seen in the records of the Italian traveller Giuseppe Tucci following his visit in 1948, and in the black and white photographs taken by the Italian photographer Pietro Francesco Mele who accompanied Tucci on the 1948 expedition; see P.Mele, Tibet, Calcutta, 1975.

    Friezes such as the present lot would once have decorated the base of a stupa at Densatil, where eighteen large funerary reliquaries contained the mortal remains of the religious and political leaders of the Phagmogrupa. They can now be found scattered in museum collections around the globe, including the Musée Guimet and the Dallas Museum of Art. A similar frieze with four dancing maidens from the collection of Mr and Mrs John I.Eastman, was included in the exhibition and illustrated in the catalogue by M.Rhie and R.Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, New York, 2000, no.240.

    Compare another similar frieze sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 27 May 2012, lot 281.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that there is a missing semi-circular piece (approx. 4cm diam.) from the rim above the far right dancer, with some further re-gilding to the rim.
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