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藏中 夏魯寺 十四世紀 多聞天王曼荼羅
Emblazoned at center in an aureole of licking flames is Vaishravana, the Guardian of the North and bestower of wealth. He is depicted as a warrior king riding a white lion, wearing a ceremonial cuirass evoking Central Asian designs and fluttering Chinese silks, all which is set within a palatial frame. The central and ancillary figures in the surrounding architraves, temple scenes, and shrines portray a Chinese court style of dress and textiles, which are overlaid onto a backdrop of Nepali motifs. Newari designs are evident in the saturated tones, rounded figural forms, and scrolling designs, a tradition established at Shalu during the 13th century. A visual dynamism exists in this painting between this Newari aesthetic and Yuan imperial style, which emerges under Mongol patronage in the 14th century at Shalu monastery. Within the assembly of these designs is an iconographical program of Vaishravana and his entourage of eight horsemen specifically linked to Tibetan ritual practice at Shalu. Thus, in one of the greatest paintings depicting this subject, this work conjures an encompassing transnational field of references between Newari workshops, the Yuan imperial court, and Tibetan traditions.
A number of features indicate the legacy of the Nepali stylistic traditions in this painting, a history that is linked to Shalu monastery beginning in the 13th century. The red and yellow swirling foliate patterns featured in areas of the background is a noted element in wall paintings from Shalu, the scrolling lines which show the painterly prowess of these esteemed Newari artisans (cf. Henss, Cultural Monuments of Tibet , Vol. II, 2014, p. 603, fig. 865). Saturated colors of reds, deep greens, and dark blues extend into a tonal palette equally rich and abstracting, which is also shared in the interior paintings of the monastery walls (cf. HAR 5896). The body types – squat statures and rounded faces – draw into motion the animated figural forms that indicate a Newari hand whose aesthetic the Sakyas heavily employed during the 13th century. The notable craft of these artisans and proximity along trade routes in Tibet motivated the Sakyas to act as patrons to Newari artists, thus establishing a dominating influence in Tibetan paintings in the 13th century in Central Tibet, including at Shalu monastery.
The 14th century effected a more synthesized style, merging Newari designs with Chinese and Central Asian motifs, as seen here. In 1306, Shalu monastery received patronage from the Yuan emperor, and this imperial support contributed to a number of renovations to the monastery. Courtly scenes on the walls in the Great Hall at Shalu monastery from this period suggest these Central Asian and Chinese influences (see Henss, Cultural Monuments of Tibet , Vol. II, 2014, p. 605, fig. 869), finding visual parity to this thangka in the green tiled buildings, decorative motifs, costumes, foliage, and pattern of flames. Two dignitaries – a man holding a scepter and a woman holding an offering bowl – stand at either side of Vaishravana's shoulder endeavoring to pay homage to the deity. This image parallels to a donor figure in long pleated robes making offerings to the Buddha from a mural in one of the processional corridors in Shalu (Kossak, Painted Images of Enlightenment: Early Tibetan Paintings, 1050-1450, Mumbai, 2010, p. 135, fog. 85). Within these elements of Chinese design is a historic present, with active participation by royal patrons made towards the god of wealth, further insinuated by the reams of silk laid at the feet of the deity and accompanying monk in the neighboring scene making ritual offerings to the shrine. With the inclusion of patrons in Eastern dress, there is a succinct statement of the alliance of wealth and power between Shalu and its imperial patrons of the Yuan court. Underlying this is a connection between faith and empire, expressed through the Yuan's direct engagement with Tibetan Buddhist empowerment rites.
The iconographic program depicted in this thangka reflects specific tantric teachings and practices at Shalu. Vaishravana functioned as a principal protector of Shalu, within an assembled fleet of sentinel beings. These include the backwards facing horseman in the lower right, whose poisoned breath has the power to kill. Featured here too is Mahachakra Vajrapani, a principal deity of the monastery, who is positioned among the rooftops of the palace. In contrast to the donors, ancillary figures of nagas, monks and small guardians, Vaishravana and his eight accompanying horsemen are by far the most prominent figures within this architectural frame. His principal position in the painting, dressed as a mythic-warrior king, holding a jewel spewing mongoose and garland of gems between his teeth, and waving a victory banner is both dynamic and resolute. Braided together here are themes of wealth, imperial power, and victory, bound by religious faith. The result is a portrayal of this dynamic protector of Shalu monastery, whose worldly protection and promise of wealth is triumphantly bestowed.
Giuseppe Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, Vol. 2, Rome, 1949, pp. 571-8, pls. 173-7.
Giuseppe Tucci, acquired on expedition in Tibet, 1928-1939
The Alice & Nasli Heeramaneck Collection, acquired in New York, c. 1955
The Pan-Asian Collection (Christian Humann), acquired from the above, 1974
The Robert H. Ellsworth Collection, acquired from the above, c. 1981
A Distinguished Private European Collection, acquired from the above, 1993
On loan to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (L.76.24.237), 1976
Two Tibetan Thangkas from the Tucci Expeditions
"Giuseppe Tucci was one of those very rare scholars whose biographies cannot be reduced to their bibliographies. His learning was vast and profound, his linguistic and historiographical erudition reminds us of such giants as Paul Pelliot or Berthold Laufer, and his writings (some sixty volumes and more than two hundred articles) are of an amazing variety of contents and literary styles. But Giuseppe Tucci was also a prodigious traveler and an indefatigable explorer." — Mircea Eliade1
The following two paintings have an exceptional pedigree, having been collected by Giuseppe Tucci (1894–1984) during one of his seven research expeditions to the Indian Himalaya and Tibet before 1939. Broadly considered the pioneering master—or even founder–of Tibetan art history, Tucci formed the single most important collection of Tibetan thangkas in the West. The present paintings were published in his seminal 1949 work, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, a foundational text in Tibetan art history. They subsequently enjoyed a prestigious chain of custodians, passing through storied collections assembled by some of the greatest proponents of Indian and Himalayan art in the United States in the 20th century.
Perhaps the last of the great explorers, one finds no shortage of praise for Giuseppe Tucci throughout encyclopedias and other authoritative compendiums. His contributions to the studies of religious history and Tibetology are unsurpassed by any western scholar to this day. Serving for most of his career as Full Professor of Religion and Philosophy of India and the Far East at the University of Rome, Tucci complemented his teaching and writing with field research, on long expeditions averaging half a year. He was the first foreigner to attempt to visit and study all of Tibet's major religious monuments. Trekking thousands of miles across the Tibetan Cultural Zone, the research materials he gathered (paintings, manuscripts, etc.) and produced (photographs, commissioned texts, etc.) became "crucial points of departure for generations of scholars and students".2 Crowning his multilateral achievements, Tucci co-founded the Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo (IsMEO), for which he also presided between 1947-78.
It was during his time teaching Italian, Chinese, and Tibetan at the prestigious Indian universities of Shantiniketan and Calcutta, shortly after earning his degree, that Tucci organized his first field explorations, starting in 1926. Permission to bring back research materials to Italy, such as texts and art objects, was part of the official travel permits under which the Tucci expeditions were conducted. Between 1926 and 1939, Tucci lead seven expeditions to the Indian Himalaya and Tibet. We can surmise that the two paintings now being offered at auction were collected within this period because they are published in Tibetan Painted Scrolls, which had already gone into production by the start of his eighth and last expedition to Tibet in 1948. The Second World War forced a hiatus on his explorations, and during that time Tucci turned to the paintings he had thus far gathered to publish his panoramic survey of Tibetan painting. Tibetan Painted Scrolls was Tucci's only major art historical publication, being primarily a Tibetologist and historian of religions, but it is considered his magnum opus, marking the beginning of the modern period in the study of Tibetan art.3
"[Tibetan Painted Scrolls] became the most referenced documentation of Tibetan art, religious history, and literature in a western language...[and] is still an unrivalled resource in the field of Tibetology." — Michael Henss4
Tucci earmarked most of the paintings he either received as gifts, bought, or found over the course of his expeditions for a yet-to-be founded museum. 125 thangkas eventually entered Italy's Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale (MNAO) in 1962. Others he gave to a close friend, Corcos, as repayment for the latter's financial support of the Tucci expeditions. Corcos then organized a selling exhibition of 75 thangkas (including the present two) at a New York gallery in 1955, which would instigate the paintings' sequence of ownership within famous private collections of Asian art in the West.
The legendary Indian-born art dealer and collector Nasli Heeramaneck (1902-71) purchased most, if not all, the thangkas from the Tucci expeditions exhibited in New York. Following in his mentor Ananda Coomaraswamy's footsteps, Heeramaneck was a foremost ambassador of art from the Indian subcontinent in the United States in the mid-20th century. A small sampling of his collection displayed in 1966 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which included some Tucci paintings, formed the most comprehensive exhibition of Indian and Himalayan art assembled in America ever.5 More of it went on to form core holdings of many museums throughout North America, most notably more than 2,500 artworks now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
After Nasli Heeramaneck's death, the Tucci paintings were acquired by the Pan-Asian Collection in 1974, boosting its profile as arguably the most prestigious private collection of Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian art assembled in the 20th century. Its owner, Christian Humann (1929-81), worked closely with the prolific scholar and curator, Pratapaditya Pal, in whose advisory capacity the collector was introduced to Nasli's widow, Alice Heeramaneck. From their collaboration, many of the Tucci paintings were further published and exhibited, and the Tucci Collection was loaned to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which acquired nine of the best-known today. After Humann's untimely death in 1981, the renowned Asian art dealer and collector Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (1929-2014) purchased the Pan Asian Collection and its remaining Tucci paintings. Ellsworth reputedly sold the Tibetan paintings privately, including these two works, which were acquired by an eminent private European collection. With their unrivalled provenance, these paintings are among very few works from the Tucci expeditions to ever appear at auction.
1 Eliade, "Giuseppe Tucci (1895-1984)", History of Religions, vol. 24, no. 2, 1984, pp. 157.
2 Klimburg Salter (ed.), Discovering Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Paintings, 2015, p. 36.
3 Much of the content of this paragraph and overall entry is indebted to Deborah Klimburg Salter's work (ibid., pp. 25-59).
4 Henss, "Introduction to the SDI Edition of the Tibetan Painted Scrolls", in Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, 2nd ed., 1999, p. v.
5 Pal, "Nasli Heeramaneck: The Consummate Collector and Connoisseur", in Peyton & Anne Paul (eds.), Arts of South Asia: Cultures of Collecting, 2019, p. 151.