The Claude de Marteau Collection, Part II / STATUETTE DE KAPALADHARA HEVAJRA EN ALLIAGE DE CUIVRE DORÉ DYNASTIE MING, XVE SIÈCLE
€500,000 - €700,000
Global Head, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art
Head of Sale, NY & HK - Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art
A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF KAPALADHARA HEVAJRA
MING DYNASTY, 15TH CENTURY
明 十五世紀 銅鎏金喜金剛像
Arman Neven, Le tantrisme dans l'art et la pensee, 1974, p. 76, no. 390.
Le tantrisme dans l'art et la pensee, Palais de Beaux-Arts, Bruxelles, 7 March - 10 April 1974.
With Claude de Marteau, Brussels, by 1970s
Belonging to the highest class of Tantra in Tibetan Buddhism, this sixteen-armed form of Hevajra known as Kapaladhara Hevajra holds in each of his hands a skull cup with eight animals representing the Eight Diseases on one side, and eight Buddha-like deities representing the corresponding cures on the other. He holds his consort Nairatmya in his principal pair of arms, while she flings her right leg around his waist as they embrace one another in a cosmic, synchronous dance. Apart from bestowing good health and fortune to practitioners, these meditational deities (yidams) quash ignorance, here manifested as four Hindu deities, two of which kneel behind the supreme couple.
This powerfully rendered gilt bronze follows in the early Ming dynasty's imperial sponsorship of Tibetan Buddhism. Arguably the most generous Buddhist art patron among the Ming rulers was the Yongle emperor (1403-24), who sought to reestablish the priest-disciple relationship introduced by the Mongol khans of the Yuan dynasty, and in so doing, legitimize his rule as their spiritual heir. Part of this initiative involved the creation of small, portable bronzes in a codified yet accomplished Tibeto-Chinese style, which were either received by visiting religious envoys or sent to Tibetan monasteries as diplomatic gifts. On the other hand, the practice of exchanging images between Tibet and China was lessened considerably under the Xuande emperor (1426-1435), as the fewer number of bronzes produced during his reign were largely intended as objects of worship in Chinese temples.
The lack of an imperial reign mark notwithstanding, the following work retains much of the sculptural qualities associated with Ming bronzes from the 15th century. For instance, the slightly thinner features within the entire composition bear slight resemblance to two Xuande-marked gilt bronzes, including one Manjushri published in Uhlig, On the Path to Enlightenment, 1995, p. 122, no. 72, and an esoteric form of Tara sold at Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 2 October 2017, lot 3124. Furthermore, while the divine couple's elongated proportions, imposing weight, and denser jewelry reflect the desire for bolder figures in the Xuande period, the brilliant gilding, unevenly sized tripartite swags, and compact arrangement of the lotus petals with trifurcating tips reveals the artist's reliance on Yongle archetypes. (For example, compare the pedestals and flaring, tripartite swags depicted on a Yongle Vajrabhairava and Hevajra, sold at Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 7 October 2006, lots 812 & 814.) This juxtaposition suggests that the present lot is likely from the Xuande period or soon after, as subsequent periods all but abandon the narrow petal design in favor of a wider type with foliated tips.
Compare the present lot's crown type to a Ming dynasty Yama published in Beguin, Dieux du Tibet, 2018, p. 133, together with a 15th-century gilt bronze Hevajra with closely related proportions and lotus base, sold at Sotheby's, London, 11 May 2016, lot 65.