An important gilt copper-alloy figure of Amitayus Attributed to Sonam Gyaltsen (active 15th century), Central Tibet, Circa 1430-1440 (2)

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Lot 30
An important gilt copper-alloy figure of Amitayus
Attributed to Sonam Gyaltsen (active 15th century), Central Tibet, Circa 1430-1440

HK$ 7,000,000 - 9,000,000
US$ 900,000 - 1,200,000
An important gilt copper-alloy figure of Amitayus
Attributed to Sonam Gyaltsen (active 15th century), Central Tibet, Circa 1430-1440
The princely Bodhisattva exquisitely cast seated cross-legged in dhyanasana on an elaborate double-lotus pedestal, the hands held in dhyana mudra holding the eternal vase, the bare torso wearing a shawl draped around the shoulders delicately incised with scrolling cloud pattern and floral hems, wearing a lavishly bejewelled dhoti gathered in elegant pleats on the base, richly embellished with regal earrings, necklaces, armlets and bracelets with foliate projections inset with turquoise, the serene face with downcast eyes framed by an intricate tiara set in front of the high chignon, box. 43cm (17in) high (2).

Footnotes

  • 藏中 約1430-1440 銅鎏金嵌綠松石無量壽佛像 傳為索南堅贊之作

    Himalayan Art Resources item no.16792
    喜馬拉雅藝術資源網16792號

    Provenance:
    Sotheby's Parke-Bernet, New York, 23 May 1979, lot 85
    Navin Kumar, New York
    A French private collection, Paris, acquired from the above on 31 August 1984
    Christie's Paris, 19 December 2012, lot 209
    An important Asian private collection

    來源:
    紐約蘇富比帕克-博內,1979年5月23日,拍品編號85
    紐約Navin Kumar舊藏
    法國巴黎私人舊藏,1984年8月31日購於上者
    巴黎佳士得,2012年12月19日,拍品編號209
    亞洲重要私人收藏

    Published and Illustrated:
    U.von Schroder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, p.446, no.121A

    出版及著錄:
    馮·施羅德著,《Indo-Tibetan Bronzes》,香港,1981年,頁446,編號121A

    The magnificent gilt-bronze figure of Amitayus bears all the hallmarks of the exceptional master-craftsmanship of one of the greatest known artists in Tibet, active during the first half of the 15th century, namely, the master craftsman Sonam Gyaltsen.

    The attribution to Sonam Gyaltsen is demonstrated in the evident similarities to the gilt-copper alloy figure of Avalokiteshvara Sahasrabhuja Ekadasamukha, circa 1430, identified by inscription to have been made by Sonam Gyaltsen, which was sold at Bonhams New York, 19 March 2018, lot 3033. These close similarities are manifest in the comparable sculptural facial features, the turquoise-inlaid jewellery, the incised decoration, and lotus lappets: Gyaltsen completes his bronze's lotus petals in the round with symmetrically curling plump inner corolla on top of swelled outer petals with pointed tips. Gyaltsen lightly engraves Amitayus' silks with auspicious symbols. He models Amitayus with slender physiognomy. The hair is distinctively arranged into a fringe of rounded curls before the crown. Gyaltsen apportions the jewellery with restraint, such that small turquoise settings brilliantly lead the eye over the body without distracting from its alluring suppleness. Lastly, in the handsome face, Gyaltsen elegantly captures the benevolent and restful essence of Amitayus.

    As noted in the inscription of the Sonam Gyaltsen Avalokiteshvara, the master craftsman had the patronage of the Rinpung dynasty and more specifically the third monarch, Norbu Zangpo (1403-1466) who ruled between 1435 and 1466. The dynasty's seat of power was in Shigatse, Tsang Province in Central Tibet, and its rulers mostly patronised the Sakya order. This figure was created at the culmination of the foundation or enlargement of Jamchen Chode monastery near Shigatse, circa 1430. It is therefore possible that the present figure of Amitayus was also created as part of the project of the Jamchen monastery.

    Whilst the Bonhams Avalokiteshvara remains the only known inscribed figure identified by inscription to be by Sonam Gyaltsen, it allows us to attribute other important sculptures in public and private collection to the great master. Compare with a gilt-copper figure of Vajrabhairava illustrated by U.von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, p.451, no.123E, which most closely matches the present sculpture's double lotus base with engraved design.

    Attributed to Sonam Gyaltsen: A Magnificent figure of Amitayus

    Jeff Watt

    Amitayus, Buddha (Tibetan: tse pag me; who is also known as The Enlightened One of Immeasurable Life, Lord of Limitless Life and Pristine Awareness, the Sambhogakaya Appearance (Enjoyment Body) of Buddha Amitabha. The term 'Buddha' has two different meanings. The first meaning is an abstract religious definition and the second is a descriptive term used in Himalayan style art. In the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism Amitabha resides in the western direction in the Pureland called Sukhavati (Land of Great Bliss). Full descriptions of his iconography and environment are found in the literature of the Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra.

    The two names, Amitayus and Amitabha Buddha, describe the same entity, the same individual. Along with the two different names there is a difference in emphasis and a different appearance. Amitabha Buddha has the classic look of a Buddha figure wearing monastic robes, holding a begging bowl and displaying an ushnisha on the crown of the head. Amitabha, in the buddha manifestation, is known as the Buddha of Immeasurable Light. The Amitayus form is depicted as a peaceful male deity with long flowing hair, beautiful ornaments, heavenly garments, along with a long-life vase resting on the palms of the two hands placed in a meditation gesture. Although a Buddha, Amitayus, does not have Buddha appearance, but rather the appearance of a peaceful deity, and he represents immeasurable life, or rather the quality and promise of long life. The two names are often confused, conflated or used interchangeably. With painted examples, the two figures are both depicted in a red colour.

    'Bhagavan Lord of Limitless Life and Pristine Awareness with a body red in colour, one face, two hands and with two long eyes glancing with compassion on beings, gazing on the entirety of migrators; and a smiling face, wearing the complete sambhogakaya vestments. Above the two hands held in meditation is a long-life vase filled with the nectar of immortality; with the hair in tufts, adorned with silks and jewels, seated in vajra posture, the body blazing with the shining light of the [32] marks and [80] examples'. (Sakya Tridzin Kunga Tashi, 1656-1711).

    The style of the present figure can be firmly compared and attributed to the early 15th century hand of Sonam Gyaltsen. This is evident in the body proportions, ornamentation and many minor details. The idea of a Sonam Gyaltsen atelier and distinctive sculptural style is relatively new, presented in New York first in early 2018, based on an inscription located on the lotus base of an Avalokiteshvara sculpture (Bonhams New York, 19 March 2018, lot 3033; Himalayan Art Resources item no.61516). The inscription was rich with information. Based on a triangulation of dates of four persons, two named donors, a well-known historical Buddhist teacher and the artist, a date of circa 1425 could be established for that sculpture.

    A close comparison of the two sculptural works, the present Amitayus and the Sonam Gyaltsen Avalokiteshvara, demonstrates that they are both of similar date and made in the same workshop and most likely by the hand of the artist Sonam Gyaltsen.

    Since 2018 many more works have now been identified as belonging to the Sonam Gyaltsen sculpture atelier. However, unlike the firm attribution of the Avalokiteshvara by the inscription and the Amitayus by close comparable style and craftsmanship - this does not mean that all of the other sculptures were created or designed by the artist Sonam Gyaltsen. The name Sonam Gyaltsen, as found on the Bonhams Avalokiteshvara inscription, gave the crucial information in order to place that sculpture and similar stylistic works not only at a specific time, circa 1425 and later, but also geographically in the Tsang region of Tibet and specifically in the Shigatse/Shalu area. A number of objects from the body of work are of excellent quality and design, followed by many works that appear derivative and of a later production, some with tentative dates, for the later pieces, placing them into the 16th century.

    Some of the special characteristics of the Sonam Gyaltsen atelier style are a well-proportioned body, fluid in movement and natural in appearance. Incising of floral patterns is commonly found around the bottom of the lotus base. Slight incising can be found on the small tips of the two layers of the double lotus base. The crown, earrings, three necklaces (choker, short, long), armlet, bracelets, anklets and belt are opulent and decorated with inset stones, turquoise stone being the most abundant.

    The most essential point of these sculptural discoveries is that based on an identified inscribed work, along with a date, a general location can now be placed on a large body of sculpture albeit named after a specific prominent artist, the only named artist identified at this time for this sculptural style.

    It is therefore reasonable that the now clearly recognisable style can be named, until more historical data is acquired, as the Sonam Gyaltsen sculpture atelier. From the standpoint of historical research that is the first important point. The second important point is the acknowledgement of the atelier as producing some of the finest Tibetan sculpture created during a golden age of both art and Tibetan literary output. The style represents a true synthesis of the best characteristics of sculpture styles from the surrounding regions of the Himalayas, India, Kashmir, Nepal and China, reshaped into a truly unique Tibetan aesthetic flourishing in the 15th century.

    The present sculpture of Amitayus is arguably the only other work which to date can be firmly attributed to Sonam Gyaltsen, therefore further adding to the current identifiable body of work by the master sculptor.

    Jeff Watt

    October 2019

    此尊無量壽佛頭結塔髻,頂插寶塔,額戴寶冠,雙耳長垂,戴輪形耳環,開臉端莊肅穆,面部頗寬厚,細眉垂目,眉間鑄方形白亳,鼻挺,嘴微露笑意,胸帶瓔珞,肩披坎肩,坎肩鏨刻如意雲紋及連枝錦地紋邊,雙手捧寶瓶,雙腿盤結,滿飾瓔珞,衣袍攤地,坐於蓮台之上,臺緣一周飾連珠紋,蓮辦上下翻轉,臺基鏨刻一周連枝番蓮及番菊紋,佛像寶冠、耳環、臂約、手鐲、寶瓶、瓔珞皆嵌松石,通體鎏金,寶光華彩。

    此尊無量壽佛為目前所見西藏造像登峰造極之作,應出自十五世紀上半葉造像大師索南堅贊之手。紐約邦瀚斯2018年3月19日售出一件索南堅贊簽名之作——銅鎏金十一面觀音像,和本件拍品有諸多相似之處:開臉、嵌松石瓔珞、鏨刻花紋、以及蓮辦——索南堅贊所作蓮辦圓潤豐滿,內層蓮辦中間內凹,兩側飽滿綻放,外側蓮辦尖頭則呈三叉式內捲。並且,佛像衣衫鏨刻之祥雲圖案,刀法清淺而有力,非索南無有此功力。造像整體停勻秀美,劉海如波,髮髻如雲,身上所嵌松石大小、疏密皆恰到好處,目光遊走法身,不為浮華所炫目。索南最稱道之處在於精巧展現了無量壽佛法相的精髓:慈悲與安詳。

    根據十一面觀音的銘文,索南堅贊的藝術離不開仁蚌巴王朝諾布桑波 (1403-1466)對他的鼎力支持。政權中心位於衛藏中的仁蚌宗(今日喀則),主要信奉支持薩迦法王。本件觀音像作於日喀則附近的超浦寺擴建期間,時惟1430年。由此,本件無量壽佛像亦有可能作於超浦寺。

    雖然邦瀚斯所售出之十一面觀音像為目前僅見索南堅贊銘文的作品,但是為鑒別其他索南堅贊作品提供了重要參照。參考一件銅鎏金大威德金剛,其蓮辦和本件頗似,見馮·施羅德著,《Indo-Tibetan Bronzes》,香港,1981年,頁451,編號123E。

    索南堅贊遺珠:一尊舉世無雙的無量壽佛

    無量壽佛,藏文為འོད་དཔག་མེད།,乃西方極樂世界的教主,密宗以為阿彌陀佛之報身。「佛」意有兩重:一為抽象的宗教定義;二為喜馬拉雅藝術專用的描述性術語。大乘佛教傳統中,阿彌陀佛居住在極樂淨土之西。《無量壽經》對無量壽佛之法相和居住地有詳細記載。

    無量壽佛、阿彌陀佛為一佛二名,所言為一,然不同稱謂有不同側重。阿彌陀佛為經典佛陀形象,身著袈裟,手捧金缽,頭顯尊勝佛母,在佛教修行中又稱謂無量光佛。無量壽佛則多為慈悲長髮男相,裝飾華麗,身著鮮衣,全跏趺坐,雙手捧無量壽寶瓶。無量壽佛雖為佛陀之一,然其法相卻不像其他佛陀莊嚴肅穆,反而常以慈祥寧靜之相出現,主要是因為其代表永生或者對長生不老的期許。這兩個名字常常混淆,或者互換使用。繪畫作品中,二者常被繪成紅色。

    第二十九代薩迦法王阿旺貢噶扎西(1656-1711)曾寫道:「永生和無上覺知的佛陀,紅身,一面,兩手,兩長目觀察眾生,注視群生,面帶微笑,身著報身法衣。手結禪定印,上捧無量壽瓶,瓶中盛有不朽之蜜,珠翠絲絨以綰髪,全跏趺坐,身後佛光顯示卅二記,八十證。」

    此尊造像出自十五世紀早期索南堅贊之手當無疑義,以其身形比例,裝飾以及其他諸多細節足以支撐這一判斷。關於索南堅贊的藝術風格及其流派的討論方興未艾,最近的實例則是紐約邦瀚斯2018年3月19 日售出的一件銅鎏金十一面觀音像,拍品編號3033,喜馬拉雅藝術網編號61516。造像銘文提供了大量信息,根據銘文中的四個人名的比對分析—其中包括兩位供奉者,一位著名的上師以及藝術家本人,大致可以確定這尊十一面觀音像鑄於1425年。

    仔細比對十一面觀音像和本尊無量壽佛像,二者極有可能是索南堅贊在相近時期同一作坊中所作,而此尊無量壽佛亦極有可能由索南堅贊親手製作。

    2018年以來,很多造像都被斷定出自索南堅贊的作坊,但與邦瀚斯曾經售出的十一面觀音像以及此尊無量壽佛不同,大多數作品都沒有鮮明的證據表明它們為索南堅贊所設計或製作。銘文中的「索南堅贊」一名為此批造像的風格及斷代提供了重要的線索,由此我們不僅可知其作品製作時間上限為大約1425年,更讓我們確定其製作中心在衛藏的日喀則地區。後世亦出現一定數量的仿品,其風格相似,鑄造亦精,然而一部分年份還需商榷,一部分則可歸於十六世紀的作品。

    索南堅贊流派的作品當有停勻的身材,流暢的動態以及自然的外貌。而且,蓮座底部一般都有淺刻花紋;蓮辦尖端亦有輕淺細緻的鏨刻線條。法冠、三層瓔珞、臂約、手鐲、腳鐲以及腰帶皆灼灼其華,上嵌以松石為主的寶石。端賴十一面觀音像銘文所載的時間、地點,眾多造像得以確認出自大師之後,索南堅贊也是這一風格造像唯一留名的大師。

    因此,現在可以合理地將佛教造像領域的一類風格歸納為索南堅贊流派,直至有更多的歷史證據可以修正該論。這一論點立足於史學研究,並且基於一個客觀認識,即索南堅贊的作坊曾在西藏藝術文化的黃金年代製作了一批西藏造像的巔峰之作。他的風格代表了當時造像的頂級水平,喜馬拉雅、印度、克什米爾、尼泊爾及中國皆無出其右者,並且重塑了十五世紀獨一無二的藏地美學。並且可以相當確定地將此尊無量壽佛歸為索南堅贊的作品,為大師遺寶再填新珠。

    傑夫·瓦特

    2019年10月
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An important gilt copper-alloy figure of Amitayus Attributed to Sonam Gyaltsen (active 15th century), Central Tibet, Circa 1430-1440 (2)
An important gilt copper-alloy figure of Amitayus Attributed to Sonam Gyaltsen (active 15th century), Central Tibet, Circa 1430-1440 (2)
An important gilt copper-alloy figure of Amitayus Attributed to Sonam Gyaltsen (active 15th century), Central Tibet, Circa 1430-1440 (2)
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