A GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AMOGHASIDDHI NEPAL OR TIBET, 11TH CENTURY

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Lot 3206
A GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AMOGHASIDDHI
NEPAL OR TIBET, 11TH CENTURY

Sold for US$ 372,500 inc. premium
A GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AMOGHASIDDHI
NEPAL OR TIBET, 11TH CENTURY
Himalayan Art Resources item no.61524
9 in. (23 cm) high

Footnotes

  • 尼泊爾/西藏 十一世紀 銅鎏金不空成就佛坐像

    This assured figure of Amoghasiddhi ranks well among the powerful representations of the Five Tathagathas, or Wisdom Buddhas, popular during Tibet's Buddhist renaissance in the 10th-12th centuries. He belongs to a rare and early corpus of bronzes that are key to our understanding of the transmission and creation of Buddhist art in Tibet in its early days, and Nepal's role within it. Being a superior example of the type, the Maitri Amoghasiddhi has a sleeker patina and is of a significantly larger scale, comparing favorably to the Ellsworth Amitabha ("Manjushri") sold at Christie's, New York, 17 March 2015, lot 10.

    With his right hand, he offers the gesture of reassurance (abhaya mudra) while seated in the diamond pose (vajraparyankasana). His regalia are lavish, yet unaffected, wearing prominent armbands and a necklace with pendant tripartite jewels. His sheer cross-body sash and lower garment are finely incised with floral patterns. His towering crown is extraordinary, with a tall foliate leaf for each of the cardinal directions, surrounding a central jatamukata. Retaining much of its original gilding and pigment, the ensconced chignon depicts stacks of loose curls rising towards a surmounting lotus bud. His earrings compare to a stele of Uma Maheshvara, dated 1012, published in Pal, The Arts of Nepal, Leiden, 1974, fig.51.

    The sculpture belongs to a group created by Newari artisans which has mostly survived in Tibet. See a number of examples in von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculpture in Tibet, vol. II, Hong Kong, 2003, nos.219A-E. This has led to varying opinions about whether they were produced for Tibetan patrons, for Newari Buddhists living in Tibet, or only transferred to Tibetan monastic repositories after some initial devotional careers in Nepal.

    Newari proclivities and craftsmanship are clear throughout the sculpture. The piece is solidly cast (flawlessly) in a high copper alloy, lending it a rich dark brown color and heavy weight. The facial type, tall crown, and restraint of ornamentation follow Licchavi tropes. When discussing the present lot, Weldon thought the extended proportions of its crown were a departure from the Newari style prompted by a Tibetan patron (Weldon in, Cast for Eternity, 2005, p. 10). But, there is a clear precedent in earlier Nepalese art, as exemplified by a c.800 Avalokiteshvara in Cha bahil, Nepal, and a group of copper sculptures preserved in Tibet (Pal, The Arts of Nepal, Leiden, 1974, fig.187; and von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, vol.1, Hong Kong, 2001, pp.467-9, nos. 145B&C; respectively).

    However, Weldon also points to a Tibetan inscription on the tang of a figure of Vajrahumkara from the same corpus in the Nyingjei Lam Collection as evidence to support the theory that it was commissioned by a Tibetan patron. (Weldon & Casey Singer, The Sculpture Heritage of Tibet, London, 1999, pp.86 & 88). While the inscription could have been added later, the argument has merit. Von Schroeder also puts forward the premise that these sculptures were made for Tibetans - in a Newari style because they represented some of the very first products of a new patron-artist relationship at the start of the Chidar (Buddhist Sculpture in Tibet, vol.II, Hong Kong, 2001, discussed pp.914 & 918-20; related images pp.932-9, nos.217-20).

    On the other hand, the method of venerating sculptures in Tibet generally involves less repetitive touching and ablutions than in Nepal, whereas all the above-cited examples, including the present sculpture, exhibit a notable degree of overall wear to their gilding and raised edges. Their condition indicates they were not dressed and worshipped from afar on a Tibetan altar, or arranged intermittently for the appropriate ritual. Rather, the evidence of repeated devotional fondling prompts us to consider at least three possibilities. Firstly, in line with the earlier hypothesis, that early Tibetan patrons initially adopted a Nepalese mode of ritual practice, in tandem with the latter's aesthetic. Secondly, that sculptures such as the present lot were made for the Newari Buddhist communities themselves living in Tibet and transferred to monastic repositories at later date. Or thirdly, that these sculptures were made and received some worship in Nepal before being transferred to Tibet, perhaps to preserve them from disaster or by way of diplomatic gifts.

    Published
    Marcel Nies Oriental Art, Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art, Antwerp, 1999, pp.10-1.
    Jan van Alphen, Cast for Eternity: Bronze Masterworks from India and the Himalayas in Belgian and Dutch Collections, Antwerp, 2005, pp.146-7, no.43.

    Exhibited
    Cast for Eternity: Bronze Masterworks from India and the Himalayas in Belgian and Dutch Collections, Ethnographic Museum, Antwerp, 12 February - 26 June 2005.

    Provenance
    Collection of Alice Boney, USA, 1970s
    Arnold Lieberman, New York, 1998
    Marcel Nies Oriental Art, Antwerp
    Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Meijer, the Netherlands, 1999-2013
    Marcel Nies Oriental Art, Antwerp
    Acquired from the above at TEFAF Maastricht, 29 March 2013
Contacts
A GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AMOGHASIDDHI NEPAL OR TIBET, 11TH CENTURY
A GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AMOGHASIDDHI NEPAL OR TIBET, 11TH CENTURY
A GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AMOGHASIDDHI NEPAL OR TIBET, 11TH CENTURY
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