A copper alloy figure of a Digambara Jina Karnataka or Tamil Nadu, 9th century
Lot 87
A copper alloy figure of a Digambara Jina
Karnataka or Tamil Nadu, 9th century
US$ 100,000 - 150,000
£ 75,000 - 110,000

Lot Details
A copper alloy figure of a Digambara Jina Karnataka or Tamil Nadu, 9th century A copper alloy figure of a Digambara Jina Karnataka or Tamil Nadu, 9th century
A copper alloy figure of a Digambara Jina
Karnataka or Tamil Nadu, 9th century
Solid cast, standing "sky clad" in the body-abandoning pose (kayotsarga) and modeled with supple curvature and latent strength, his slender arms extending from broad shoulders below a fleshy waist, a characteristic srivatsa mark appears above his right breast, while his face features a prominent lower lip, a nose like a garuda's beak, high arched brows, and eyes cut with a single opening.
17 1/2 in. (44.4 cm) high


  • The present lot possibly originates from Karnataka, where Jains were cited as being instrumental to the establishment of both Ganga (350-1000 CE) and Hoysala dynasties (1026–1343 CE) and where Jain communities flourished under continuous royal patronage (see Pal, The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art form India, 1994, p. 20), but it is more likely that it was cast in Tamil Nadu, where Jainism experienced a revival in the 8th and 9th centuries following an influx of Jain migrants from Karnataka. (Tamil Nadu had previously been a stronghold for Jain worship until the popularity of Hindu bhakti saints dominated the region, converting Jain Pallava kings in turn. For further discussion, see Granoff (ed.), Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection, New York, 2009, p. 208.) A greater number of similar Jain bronzes survive from Tamil Nadu, albeit but a handful, from which to compare and attribute.

    The closest related sculpture held in a North American museum is located in the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art and appears on the front cover of Pal, The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art form India, 1994. The two share similar ovoid faces with a slightly pointed crowns, high arching brows and v-shaped lips. Combining these physiognomic details, they are set apart from other examples from the region and period, which share only one or two features in addition to the more commonly shared characteristics of slightly upturned pendulous earlobes, broad sloping shoulders, and fleshy waists. Among these is a standing Jina from the 8th century held in the Rockefeller collection (see Granoff (ed.), The Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection 2009, no. S 25, p. 208), another attributed to circa 900 (in Pal, The Elegant Image: Bronzes from the Indian Subcontinent in the Siddharth K. Bhansali Collection, Mumbai, 2011, no. 83 p 154), and an 11th century example from a private collection (see Granoff (ed.), 2009, no. S 29, p. 216-7). The last of which demonstrates by contrast that by the 11th century the form of the bronze Jina became more stylized with a rounder face, ballooning thighs, and greater curvature and rigidity to the arms, as discussed by Phyllis Granoff (ibid.).

    One strikingly rare feature the present lot shares only with the Rockefeller Jina amongst this group is the shrivatsa mark appearing above the right breast. Whereas this auspicious mark appears ubiquitously at the center of the chest of any Jina from North India from as early as the second century onwards, it is extremely rare amongst South Indian Jain images, and Granoff argues is unique to images from Tamil Nadu (ibid., p.208).

    This figure, produced by members of the Digambara sect, represents one of the twenty-four figures making up the heart of the Jain religion, teachers who developed the doctrines and achieved victory over the cycle of rebirth. One of three great Indian faiths, Jainism is subdivided, for the most part, into two sects: the Svetambara, whose monks wear white clothes, and the Digambara, whose monks walk naked, reinforcing the Jain doctrines on material renunciation and control over the senses. Unlike Hindu sculptures, the Jina image is not viewed as a vessel the deity inhabits, rather it serves as a reminder of the twenty-four exemplars and their spiritual achievements. As Jan van Alphen comments: "They serve only as a means by which the spirit can be diverted from earthly desire and affliction and directed towards the transcendent. Meditating on these images brings the believer closer to the great examples, the Liberated souls."(van Alphen, Steps to Liberation: 2,500 years of Jain Art and Religion, Antwerp, 2000, p.43). Modeled with a supple curvature and latent strength that blends the sensual and spiritual, the natural and superhuman, the current example is an exquisite symbol of the quest of the soul within the human body.

    The object was passed by descent from the estate of Mrs. Julian B. Herrmann, the majority of which was sold by Christie's, New York in 1977-8. Mrs. Herrmann was the niece of Eric Cohn who would accompany and advise her on antiquing trips to Europe in the 1920s and 30s. Eric Cohn, in turn, was closely associated with Serge Sebarsky who co-assembled the collection of the Neue Galerie New York. An in-depth third-party report analyzing the object's surface indicates that the present lot was at some point cleaned using a process of electrolytic reduction that was popular in Northern Europe around the early 20th century, but has been little used since. This therefore would be consistent with the likelihood that Mrs. Herrmann purchased the bronze on one of her antiquing trips. The other possibility is that the piece was bought on the New York market between the 50s and 60s before her unfortunate decline in health in the early 70s. After the sale of Mrs. Herrmann's estate in 1978 the current owner commissioned an appraisal which documents the piece in her possession by 1978.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that Eric Cohn was a close family friend of Mrs Herrmann, not her uncle.
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  1. Mark Rasmussen
    Specialist - Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art
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