A copper figure of Devi Nepal, circa 9th century
Lot 18
A copper figure of Devi
Nepal, circa 9th century
Sold for US$ 293,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
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A copper figure of Devi Nepal, circa 9th century A copper figure of Devi Nepal, circa 9th century A copper figure of Devi Nepal, circa 9th century A copper figure of Devi Nepal, circa 9th century
A copper figure of Devi
Nepal, circa 9th century
Naturalistically modeled with a graceful sway to the right, the bright goddess smiles with the gesture of teaching.
7 1/4 in. (18.41 cm) high

Footnotes

  • 尼泊爾 約九世紀 女神銅像

    This powerful goddess is portrayed as an adolescent figure with youthful vigor and natural beauty. She has high swollen breasts, well-defined buttocks, and a round stomach wrapped in patterned textiles. Her oval jewelry accentuates her proportions. Her face is plump and cheerful. Her hair is finely detailed and arranged in a loose pigtail, and her countenance is framed by the flaming aureole.

    Her exact identification is elusive. She holds the hilt of a sword in her upper right hand and a shield in the upper left. The lower right displays the gesture of explication (vitarka mudra), and the lower left holds a water pot. The sword hilt and shield may suggest Durga: common attributes for the goddess, as seen in the Kshemankari Durga published in Dehejia, Devi, the Great Goddess, Ahmedabad, 1999, p. 27. However, no examples of the goddess are known showing her with a youthful, plump body, except for a single, roughly carved, Pala stele in the Victoria and Albert Museum (acc. #1879,1101.335) of the goddess seated, securely identified by the presence of her lion beneath her.

    A water pot can also appear in Durga's hands, but without her buffalo-mount, or the tail normally held in one of her lower hands, we are prevented from making a definite attribution. This is especially the case in light of other deities also bearing these attributes, such as a stone Nepalese Seated Vatsaleshvari in Pashupatinath, dated to the 12th century, again rendered with a non-congruent idealized slim waist (Pal, The Arts of Nepal, Leiden, 1974, no. 234).

    The repeated peacock feather eye incised to the interior of her shield is a curious feature. The peacock has many connotations in Hindu and Buddhist art, but there are no known texts that describe its very deliberate placement here. While the goddess Astamatrika Kaumari rides a peacock, reference to its feathers in a shield would be an unusual representation of the bird's function as a vehicle. At this juncture, we must classify this figure as Devi, the Goddess, who manifests in many forms.

    Stylistically, the slightly squared ovoid face and youthful body are connected to a number of variously dated Nepalese sculptures, ranging from the 8th to 11th centuries. As very few early Nepalese sculptures in metal from the Licchavi period bear dates, the category remains a source of vigorous scholarly debate. An example in the Qing Palace Collection is dated to the 11th century (Zangchuan Fojiao Zaoxiang-Gugong Bowuyuan Cang Wenwu Zhenpin Quanji, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 91, no. 86). While three variously dated to the 9th and 10th century are published in von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, pp. 311 and 321, nos. 77G, 82F, 82G.

    With that caveat, a Siddhaikavira form of Manjushri, dated 10th/11th century in the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a similar incised rippling scarf drawn across the torso (see ibid, p. 327, no. 85D). Meanwhile, her double-strand braided belt without a buckle relates to another Siddhaikavira, dated 10th century, preserved in the Jokhang in Lhasa (von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Hong Kong, 2001, p. 499, no. 160B-E).

    To obfuscate further, the incised stamen design on the top of her base is identical to one found on a Vajrapurusha, dated 10th century, in the Norton Simon Museum (Pal, Art from the Himalayas and China, Pasadena, 2003, p. 74, no. 43). While, the smooth and plump lotus petals recall the Pala ideal and are consistent with the petals on an Avalokiteshvara, dated 9th century, in the British Museum (von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, p. 310, no. 77A). Also compare her to another early Nepalese Devi sold in our rooms on 17 March 2014, lot 4.

    An important, hitherto unpublished, addition to the rare and elusive corpus of early Nepalese sculpture, she defies exact identification or dating. Yet her superb smooth brown skin and recesses with encrusted accretions attest to this beautiful, enigmatic goddess' long history of worship and ritual handling within the culture.

    Bonhams is grateful for Dr. Pratapaditya Pal's assistance with this lot note.

    Referenced
    HAR - himalayanart.org/items/61413

    Provenance
    Private Collection, Europe, 1970s
    Private Collection, USA
Activities
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