A rare and large gilt-bronze figure of Dharmapala Begtse Chen 18th century (2)

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Lot 109*
A rare and large gilt-bronze figure of Dharmapala Begtse Chen
18th century

Sold for £ 185,000 (US$ 230,565) inc. premium
A rare and large gilt-bronze figure of Dharmapala Begtse Chen
18th century
The Lord of War robustly cast and gilt standing boldly with feet apart above eight snakes on a lotus pedestal, wearing armoured chainmail and robes fastened in place with a ferocious lion mask, kirttimukha, across his bulging belly, a belt of human heads hanging loosely around the waist, the fearsome facial expression and powerful stare of the three bulging eyes framed by a crown of five skulls and flaming red hair. 36.8cm (14 1/2in) high (2).

Footnotes

  • 十八世紀 銅鎏金大紅司命主像

    Provenance: Sotheby's New York, 20 March 1997, lot 126

    來源: 1997年3月20日於紐約蘇富比拍賣,拍品126號

    Begtse Chen, also known as Chamsing, is one of the eight famous Dharmapala (Dharma protector) in Tantric Buddhism.

    The origin of Begtse Chen can be traced to a pre-Buddhist deity in 16th century Mongolia. Begtse Chen reputedly battled Sonam Gyatso, the Third Dalai Lama, who was travelling en route to Mongolia in 1575. Begtse Chen was defeated and he converted to Buddhism in a dramatic move, marking the advent of Buddhism in Mongolia.

    The dissemination of Buddhism in the region was further facilitated by a pivotal episode in history. In 1577, Sonam Gyatso, leader of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism, formed an alliance with Altan Khan, ruler of the Tümed Mongols, which resulted in the active promotion of Buddhism in Mongolia. Following the proselytization of Altan Khan to Buddhism and the Gelug School, temples and monasteries were commissioned and built. In the process, Begtse Chen, a deity of alien origin, was incorporated into the pantheon of Tibetan Buddhism as a protector of the Dharma, with its cult subsequently disseminated and popularised to a wider diaspora. The rise of Begtse Chen and his cult in Tibetan Buddhism are therefore evidence of the gradual localisation of the religion in Mongolia since late 16th century, as well as testifying to the vigorous integration of Tibet and Mongolia in both political and cultural dimensions of the contemporary period. The phenomenon spread much more widely when Qing China (ruled by the Manchurians) adopted Tibetan Buddhism and increasingly exerted its political influence in Tibet throughout the 18th century.

    The present lot is exceptionally rare in many respects. The naturalistic modelling of the swaying body; its casually raised and bent right arm, held in vitarka mudra representing the transmission of the teachings by the Buddha, has subtly emphasised the benevolence of the Buddhist faith with its gracious body gesture. In contrast, the dramatically sculpted facial features: the bulging eyes, precisely cast fang teeth and rolled tongue under fiery hair, with its robust chainmail breastplate and skull tiara, have successfully portrayed a powerful and threatening imagery of the deity in its wrathful incarnation. Together, the exquisite quality of modelling and casting, as described above, testifies to the fine craftsmanship of 18th century Tibet; whilst the passive iconographies displayed by the present lot serve as a statement of its faithful devotion to defending the orthodoxy of Buddhist faith.

    For a comparable but smaller gilt-bronze figure of Begtse, Qianlong, made by the Imperial workshop in Beijing, see Classics of the Forbidden City: Tibetan Buddhist Sculptures, Beijing, 2011, pp.273-274, no.171.

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  • Please note that the base of the figure may be associated.
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A rare and large gilt-bronze figure of Dharmapala Begtse Chen 18th century (2)
A rare and large gilt-bronze figure of Dharmapala Begtse Chen 18th century (2)
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