A gilt copper alloy deity from a Vajrabhairava shrine Tibeto-Chinese, Yongle period, early 15th century
Lot 13
A gilt copper alloy deity from a Vajrabhairava shrine
Tibeto-Chinese, Yongle period, early 15th century
Sold for US$ 893,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
A gilt copper alloy deity from a Vajrabhairava shrine Tibeto-Chinese, Yongle period, early 15th century A gilt copper alloy deity from a Vajrabhairava shrine Tibeto-Chinese, Yongle period, early 15th century
A gilt copper alloy deity from a Vajrabhairava shrine
Tibeto-Chinese, Yongle period, early 15th century
In a prone position with his torso raised and looking to the left, he holds a mirror, club, and water pot, he is richly adorned with multiple necklaces and other beaded jewelry, his broad rounded face with a fierce expression and thickly knitted brow.
10 7/8 in. (27.5 cm) high; 13 3/4 in. (35.2cm) wide

Footnotes

  • This exceptional early 15th century sculpture belongs to a set of eight depicting Hindu deities that would have occupied the front edge of a throne beneath a monumental Yongle Vajrabhairava sculpture.

    Although six of the eight have been previously described as naga kings, Vajrapani, and attendants, a large embroidered silk thangka of Vajrabhairava in the Jokhang demonstrates the actual convention, showing the eight Hindu deities in supplication before the more common assembly of crushed figures and animals under Vajrabhairava's feet (see Henss, The Cultural Monuments of Tibet, Vol. 1, Munich, 2014, p. 130, fig. 201). According to the format of the Yongle textile our figure would be positioned second from the right. Within the Gelugpa tradition, which took hold at the Yongle court in 1407 after the arrival of Shakya Yeshe, the eight Hindu gods from left to right be Shiva, Vishnu, Indra, Brahma, Kartikeya, Chandra, Surya, and Ganesha. Therefore the present sculpture can be securely identified as the sun god Surya.

    While these figures can appear on a level below the primary deity in 14th-/15th-century Nepalese sculpture, this exact convention of placing them on the front edge of the throne appears to be unique to the Yongle period. It is also exhibited in a Yongle six-character-mark-and-period bronze of Vajrabhairava, formerly of the Speelman Collection, illustrated in von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, p.518, fig.145C and Sotheby's, Hong Kong, 7 October 2006, lot 812. A small figure of Vajrabhairava in the Rubin Museum of Art also shows five diminutive figures similarly positioned (www.himalayanart.org/image.cfm/65486.html). However, the convention does not seem to be ubiquitous for the period, as another sculpture in the Sandor Fuss Collection (Rossi+Rossi, 2007, no. 10), and a large-scale example sold at Sotheby's, New York, 25 March 1998, lot 122, show the gods under Vajrabhairava's feet.

    The other five known figures from this group of eight include Kartikeya, sold at Bonhams, London, 11 November 2010, lot 243; Indra, formerly in the Philip Goldman collection, sold at Sotheby's, New York, 21 March 2002, lot 152; Brahma and Chandra, in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia (231A-1 & 2); and Vishnu, formerly with Marcel Nies and Sotheby's, New York, 24 September 1997, lot 112. The location of the figures of Shiva and Ganesh are presently unknown and yet to be published.

    Exhibiting all the typical stylistic characteristics of the Yongle period – with the exquisite modeling, rich gilding, and jewelry arrangement – the figure is impressive in its scale and unique poise. Unlike the classic representations of Buddhas and bodhisattvas produced in the imperial workshops of the Yongle period, this unique and, 'inspired composition reveals a great freedom of artistic imagination...The powerful posture of the deity is enhanced by striking movements, creating a sense of dynamic force, and is mesmerizing from all angles.' (Marcel Neis, asianart.com/exhibitions/nies02/9.html)

    Referenced:
    HAR – himalayanart.org/image.cfm/41232.html

    Provenance:
    Sotheby's, London, 11 June 1985, lot 218
    Private English Collection, 1985-2014
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