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尼泊爾 馬拉王朝早期 十四世紀 銅鎏金蓮華手觀音像
Avalokiteshvara, 'The Lord who Looks upon the World,' is represented in his standing Padmapani Lokeshvara form (lit. The Lotus Bearer) with a lotus blooming over his left shoulder. As the pure and perfect Bodhisattva of Infinite Compassion in Mahayana Buddhism, Avalokiteshvara willingly postpones his own highest enlightenment to save all sentient beings from suffering first. He communicates this selfless oath by lowering his right hand in the gesture of wish-fulfilment (varada mudra), offering devotees the ability to be reborn in a Buddhist paradise and his assistance toward their liberation from the cycle of samsara.
Rendered with the handsome features of an eternally youthful prince, this splendidly cast figure epitomizes the technical virtuosity of gilt bronzes produced by skilled Newari craftsmen active between the 13th and 14th centuries. He sports an athletic physique through wide shoulders and a lean upper body. A sacred thread gently hangs from over his left shoulder and onto his right hip, drawing the viewer's attention to the sensitive treatment of Avalokiteshvara's tapered waist and powerful legs as he shifts his weight to one side. A soft, gentle smile and an introspective, downcast gaze imparts his peaceful, approachable disposition.
Ritual handling over the centuries has imparted to this figure's patina a warm, brilliant lustre. The few areas of loss to the gilded surface reveal an alluring reddish-brown copper body underneath. The overall preservation of crisp details on raised edges betray the great care with which the bronze has been revered throughout its life. The relatively light amount of rubbing also suggests that while this sculpture was likely worshipped in Nepal initially, where there is a devotional practice of caressing sculptures, it was not very long before it travelled to Tibet, judging by the traces of lapis blue pigment in the hair, where sculptures are typically dressed and venerated at a distance.
In terms of refinement, the sculpture ranks among the best known standing Avalokiteshvara statues from the Early Malla period (13th-14th century), sharing the style of its earrings, ribbon ties, and sensuous modelling with an image of the same bodhisattva in the Rubin Museum of Art (C2005.16.8; HAR 65430), another example in the Sandor P. Fuss Collection (HAR 88413), and a slightly smaller figure sold at Bonhams, New York, 16 March 2021, lot 309. It is also exceptionally rare to find a figure of this type that was originally cast together with a lotus base, considering that nearly all other contemporaneous examples were cast with tangs either extending directly from their heels or a simple flat disc to be inserted into a separate base. The closest known comparisons of similar size and quality are a Padmapani Lokeshvara with a flat disc bordered by a beaded rim in the Musée Guimet (MA 5031) and a Standing Manjushri with a closely modelled, single-tiered lotus base published in van Alphen et. al, Cast for Eternity, 2005, pp. 186-7, no. 60.
Hailing from the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, the Newars are an ethnic group of master artisans whose unparalleled finesse in bronze casting was highly sought after in Tibet, Mongolia, and China. There is perhaps no better hallmark of the grace and sensitivity with which the Newars cast Buddhist sculptures than their classic representation of the young and lithe standing bodhisattva, exemplified by this elegant gilt bronze of Avalokiteshvara.
Property of a Lady, acquired in 1961
Sotheby's, London, 10 & 11 March 1986, lot 98
Acquired from the Collection of Berti Aschmann, Zurich, in the late 1980s
Christie's, New York, 12 September 2012, lot 537