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藏中 丹薩替 1431-32年 銅鎏金金剛亥母像
This gilt copper sculpture of Vajravarahi was once placed on the highest tier of a monumental reliquary commemorating the 13th abbot of Densatil, Paldan Zanpo (r. 1408-17). It closely resembles several other surviving examples of the same genre with some variation in style and period, most dating from the 13th to 15th centuries. The first reliquary of this type was created at Drigung monastery in 1208. Its founder, Jigten Gonpo (1143-1217), sought to suitably house the remains of his recently deceased and beloved teacher, Phagmodrupa (1110-70), inside a magnificent reliquary. He envisioned a monumental stupa known as a tashi gomang, meaning, "Many Doors of Auspiciousness", which laid the foundation for the creation of tashi gomang monuments, replete with thousands of images, at Drigung monastery and elsewhere in Tibet (Czaja and Proser (eds.), Golden Visions of Densatil, 2014, pp. 34 & 42).
Eight monuments were created at Densatil monastery between the late 13th century to the first half of the 15th century. These reliquaries measured five meters tall, forming a three-dimensional mandala, arranged in recessed tiers with the reliquary containing the remains of the deceased abbot on the highest tier. Encrusted with gems, the tashi gomang stupa has been described as "a huge golden mountain" (ibid, p. 54). Research by Olaf Czaja shows that such sculptures were placed on the uppermost tier of the reliquary platform (ibid, pp. 20-1, 35-6, fig. 15). Measuring between 30 to 40 centimeters in height, these Vajravarahi figures are all shown balancing on the ball of their left foot in a dancing posture while wearing a garland of severed heads and holding a hooked knife in their raised right hand.
However, stylistic variations are known to occur within the timespan of constructing a single stupa. A comparative image shows these differentiation of styles among sculptures (Estournel, "About the 18 stupas and other treasures once at the Densatil monastery", in asianart.com, 29 September 2020, pl. F). An example in the Rietberg Museum exhibits another stylistic variation (Weldon, 'Defining the Style of A Group of 13th Century Tibetan Gilt Copper Statues', in asianart.com, 13 September 2018, fig. 6; Uhlig, On the Path to Enlightenment, 1995, pp. 164-5, no. 109).
Estournel assigns this Vajravarahi to the 7th tashi gomang built by the 14th abbot, Sonam Gyaltsen Pel Zangpo (r. 1417-34) to commemorate his predecessor, Paldan Zanpo. The rapid completion of the stupa in one year supports the view that multiple workshops collaborated on the construction of this monument. Hence, for the Vajravarahi figures residing on the first tier, three variations exist (ibid, figs. 288-89). Likely coming from the same workshop as this Vajravarahi, Estournel relates a Buddhakapala figure from the second tier (fig. 279) in addition to four serpent kings along the lowest sixth tier (figs. 255-8). Also compare the present lot to a large figure of Palden Lhamo, whose double-strand garland of severed heads indicate that she was made by the same workshop for the 7th tashi gomang (Grewenig & Rist, Buddha: 2000 Years of Buddhist Art, 2016, pp. 428-9, no. 187).
Sotheby's, New York, 28 March 1996, lot 49
Koller, Zurich, 13 June 1998, lot 42
Private European Collection