A copper alloy cup with pastoral scenes India, 2nd century BCE-1st century CE
Lot 2
A copper alloy cup with pastoral scenes India, 2nd century BCE-1st century CE
US$ 20,000 - 30,000
£12,000 - 18,000
Auction Details
A copper alloy cup with pastoral scenes India, 2nd century BCE-1st century CE A copper alloy cup with pastoral scenes India, 2nd century BCE-1st century CE
Lot Details
A copper alloy cup with pastoral scenes
India, 2nd century BCE-1st century CE
With a flared lip above the central band between striped and swirling linear borders, depicting a pastoral scene populated by enshrined trees, butting stags, galavanting horses, an ox-driven plough, a man battling a lion with a shield and club (possibly Herakles), a peacock, and a procession of human figures including an ascetic holding a staff, leading counter-clockwise to a central, frontally facing female figure flanked by two attendants, the one on the left presenting a cup and holding a water vessel, and two elephants raising their trunks to form an arc above her and, therefore, possibly suggesting a rare and early representation of Gajalakshmi.
2.5 in. (6.3 cm) high; 2 7/8 in. (7.3 cm) diameter

Footnotes

  • Such early objects of Indian art are extremely rare. The present example displaying an assimilation of Greco-Roman, Scythian or Parthian styles, such as the stag and the lion and hunter, with Indian motifs of the staffed ascetic and enshrined tree. Furthermore, with the plough, the piece offers us a glimpse into agricultural practices around the turn of the last millennium BCE.

    With scarce or non existent comparable examples, the present lot is a unique example of metal work from the period. The body shares a superficial similarity in form to a Bactrian cup (1st century BCE) in the J. Paul Getty Museum (86.AM.754.4), but has glaring differences in its metallic and design compositions. Similarities can however be drawn between the depiction of motifs in numismatic evidence, seals, and cave reliefs of the period. For example, the triangular torsos and sideways pose of the female processional figures parallel those on three coins, found in Bactria, in the British Museum, dated circa 190 BCE - 180 CE, (accession nos. 1844,0909.61, IOC.17, and IOC.18). In addition, the armed figure possibly representing Herakles or a similar mythological figure, shares a resemblance to numerous tokens and seals found in Gandhara, see Rahman & Falk, Seals, Sealings and Tokens from Gandhara, Reichart, 2011, pp. 73-76. Furthermore, like images of enshrined trees can also be observed in a clay token from Gandharan, (ibid., no. 15.07.19, p. 166) as well carved in relief on a chaitya arch at Udyagiri, dated to the first century BCE, see Margaret Prosser Allen, Ornament in Indian Architecture, 1991, p. 64. In addition, an image of paired elephants lustrating entrants above an archway at Pitalkhora (c. 100 - 70 BCE), is shown in Susan & John Huntington, The Art of Ancient India, New York, 1985, fig. 5.33,p. 83.

    The present piece also presents perhaps a rare and early representation
    of Gajalaksmi in metal. As Pal explains, the surviving archeological record shows that the image of Lakshmi lustrated by two elephants (Gajalakshmi) is one of the earliest representations of The Goddess (Devi) in Indian art. Our figure is analogous with representations of the goddess at Sanchi (see ibid., figs 70 & 71, p. 222) and on Gandharan tokens (ibid., PM 07.20.01, p. 204). Moreover, for a related example in terracotta attributed to 1st century BCE from Kusambi see Pal, Indian Sculpture vol. I, Los Angeles, 1986, no. S17 p. 138 and two further, see S.C. Kala, Terracottas in Allahbad Museum, New Delhi, 1980, figs. 69 and 70. This cup was obviously an elaborate and costly item, at its first purchase and perhaps the incorporation of the goddess of fortune was an auspicious inclusion. For another image of Gajalakshmi in this sale see lot 64.
    Provenance:
    Private American Collection
Activities
Contacts
  1. Mark Rasmussen
    Specialist - Southeast Asian, Indian and Himalayan Art
    Bonhams
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  2. Edward Wilkinson
    Specialist - Southeast Asian, Indian and Himalayan Art
    Bonhams
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    7601 W. Sunset Boulevard
    Los Angeles, 90046
    United States
    Work +1 323 436 5430
    FaxFax: + 323 850 5843