A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF MANJUSHRI NEPAL, 9TH/10TH CENTURY

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Lot 805
A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF MANJUSHRI
NEPAL, 9TH/10TH CENTURY

HK$ 20,000,000 - 25,000,000
US$ 2,600,000 - 3,200,000
Premium Lot - Online Bidding Will Not Be Available
A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF MANJUSHRI
NEPAL, 9TH/10TH CENTURY
Himalayan Art Resources item no.68446
37.7 cm (14 7/8 in.) high

Footnotes

  • Published
    David Weldon and Jane Casey Singer, The Sculptural Heritage of Tibet: Buddhist Art in the Nyingjei Lam Collection, London, 1999, pp.88-9, pl.11.
    Karl Debreczeny, "Wutai Shan: Pilgrimage to Five-Peak Mountain", in Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, issue 6 (December 2011), p.72, cat.20.
    Franco Ricca, Arte Buddhista Tibetana: Dei e Demoni dell'Himalaya, Turin, 2004, fig.IV.11.

    Exhibited
    Arte Buddhista Tibetana: Dei e Demoni dell'Himalaya, Palazzo Bricherasio, Turin, 18 June – 19 September 2004.
    Wutaishan: Pilgrimage to Five Peak Mountain, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 10 May 2007 – 16 October 2007.
    Casting the Divine: Sculptures of the Nyingjei Lam Collection, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2 March 2012 – 11 February 2013.
     
    Provenance
    The Nyingjei Lam Collection
    On loan to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1996-2005
    On loan to the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2005-2019

    Manjushri, the Great Bodhisattva of Perfected Wisdom, sits with his legs in a relaxed posture commonly translated as 'royal ease' (rajalilasana), but his upright torso, broad shoulders, and immutable countenance suggest he is indefatigably in pursuit of the Dharma. Held between his right thumb and forefinger, the bodhisattva possesses a seed, or perhaps a wish-fulfilling gem (cintamani), one of seven precious attributes a chakravartin (lit. "wheel-turner") uses to administer a fair and just empire. He rests his other hand on his left knee, and the hint of a joint on the little finger suggests a possible anchor previously used to affix a separately cast lotus stem. Hanging against his strong pectorals is a necklace with pendant tiger claws that identifies Manjushri. Prominent regalia wrap around his arms and crown his head, framing his noble and resolute expression.
     
    This majestic sculpture is a leading example of a distinguished group made by Newari master craftsmen recognized by scholars to be some of the earliest Buddhist bronzes produced for Tibetans. Their dating has been debated, with some believing they belong to the Tibetan Empire and its aftermath between the 9th and 10th centuries, while others see them as products of the subsequent period, namely the Second Diffusion of Buddhism in Tibet from the late 10th to 12th centuries. (For example, see Pal,Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure, Chicago, 2003, p.28; and von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculpture in Tibet, Vol.II, Hong Kong, 2003, p.914; respectively). However, mounting research into Buddhist art and religion of the Tibetan Empire indicates that this earlier context is more appropriate, thus positioning this bronze among the most important surviving Buddhist sculptures of a period when Tibetans burst onto the world stage as the greatest military rivals of the Tang Empire.
     
    Many sculptures from this early group, located within monastic repositories in Lhasa, Tibet, have been published by von Schroeder (Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Vol.II, Hong Kong, 2003, pp.930-40, nos.216A-221A). They share a common treatment of regalia, garments, facial types, and metallic composition. Published elsewhere, two other bronzes of bodhisattvas match the present lot's height (approx. 37 cm): one of Vajrapani in the Pritzker Collection, the other of an unidentified bodhisattva in the Tibet Museum, Lhasa (Tianlu Wenhua: Tibetan History and Culture, Beijing, 2018, pp.74-5). They are only bested in size by a sculpture of Amitayus, at 46 cm high, held in a monastery in Bhutan (Bartholomew & Johnston (eds.), The Dragon's Gift, Chicago, 2008, p.166, no.9). Yet being of superior quality and scale than most, the present sculpture of Manjushri is one of the leading examples of the group.
     
    Newari proclivities and craftsmanship are clear throughout the sculpture. As seen in sculptures produced for worship in Nepal, Newars made use of their homeland's large deposits of copper to produce heavy, almost solidly cast, sculptures of a rich dark brown color. The present sculpture's elegantly proportioned limbs, convincing sense of balance and weight, and sensuous modelling of the waist are also rooted in the sculptural traditions of Nepal. Whereas it has been suggested this bodhisattva's tall crown represents a departure from Nepalese sculpture, the same proportions (about 1.25x the height of the face) are seen in 9th- and 10th-century examples, such as a c.800 stone stele of Avalokiteshvara at Chabahil Stupa in Kathmandu (Pal, The Arts of Nepal, Leiden, 1974, fig.187) and a 10th-century Nepalese bronze of Avalokiteshvara in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1982.220.14; see a second in 1988.282).
     
    Yet certain stylistic elements in this sculpture distinguish it from those typically made by Newaris for worship in Nepal. Its spired armbands are different, its modelling is more hieratic, its tone more authoritative. Because most known examples of the broader stylistic group have survived in Tibet, and some bear Tibetan inscriptions (including lot 804 in this sale), scholars infer that Newar master craftsmen produced these objects for Tibetan patrons. Records of Newari ateliers working in Tibet on architectural decoration date as far back as the 7th century, with the building of the Johkang in Lhasa, the Tibetan Empire's seat of power, and the creation of Tibet's first Buddhist monastery, Samye, in the 8th century. However, these bronzes, far more portable than the materials, conditions, and infrastructure required to cast them, were likely produced and dispatched from preexisting foundries in Nepal.
     
    When concluding their previous publication of this bronze, Weldon and Casey Singer suggest the unlikelihood that a commission of its scale and importance would have been produced earlier than the 11th century, because of the persecution of Buddhist communities in Tibet after the fall of the Tibetan Empire in the mid 9th century. However, more recent research into this period suggests that Eastern Tibet provided a refuge from such persecution and became a center of Buddhist propagation by the 10th century (Xie, "Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhist Art in the Xixia Kingdom", in Debreczeny (ed.), Faith and Empire, New York, 2019, p.83). Moreover, 9th-century Buddhist artefacts from the Tibetan Empire demonstrate stylistic precedents for these sculptures, suggesting that their dating should be closer in proximity.
     
    Stylistic elements of Buddhist art produced under the Tibetan Empire include broad shoulders, narrow waists, and large spired jewelry—key elements also distinguishing the present bronze from Nepalese sculpture (Debreczeny (ed.), Faith and Empire, New York, 2019, p.20). Sharing these features are Drak Lhamo, Bimda Temple, and Denma Drak, three large-scale rock carvings from the Tibetan Empire in Eastern Tibet dated by inscription to the late 8th and early 9th centuries (studied in Heller, "Eight- and Ninth-Century Temples & Rock Carvings of Eastern Tibet", in Casey Singer & Denwood (eds), Tibetan Art: Towards a Definition of Style, London, 1997, pp.86-103).
     
    At the height of its power, the Tibetan Empire controlled large portions of the Hexi Corridor in Gansu province, China, including Dunhuang, which was a thriving center of Buddhist activity along the Silk Road. The artefacts produced at Dunhuang and its environs under Tibetan occupation between 787-848 CE also show a basis for the present sculpture and its broader stylistic group. For example, a 9th-century temple banner of a bodhisattva, now in the British Museum, exhibits a similar crown, earrings, facial type, and tresses (1919,0101,0.101).

    A mural at the back wall of Yulin Cave 25 depicting the iconographic program of Vairocana and The Eight Great Bodhisattvas is one of the best examples of the style of Buddhist art patronized by the Tibetan Empire in the 9th century. The present Manjushri clearly approximates the central Vairocana's physiognomy, garments, and regalia, while its seated posture mirrors that of the extant bodhisattvas. Manjushri is one of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas and both the Pritzker Vajrapani and the Tibet Museum bodhisattva are consistent with this program. The theme of Vairocana and The Eight Great Bodhisattvas promulgated a claim that the Tibetan emperor was a divinely sanctioned chakravartin ('universal monarch') engaged in a bid to spread Buddhism and devoutly rule the world (Debreczeny (ed.), op. cit., p.25). This iconographic program is so prevalent in the Tibetan Empire that it prompts us to consider the likelihood that this regal sculpture of Manjushri was once part of a set dedicated to this theme, and thus intricately linked to the emperor.
     
    The popularity of this theme in Tibet predated the 11th century, since tantras relating to Vairocana and The Eight Great Bodhisattvas were among a number that were eventually replaced by the Highest Yoga Tantra traditions (Anuttarayoga Tantra) during the Second Diffusion of Buddhism. Recent years have witnessed increased interest in this early period of Tibetan history, with two landmark exhibitions closely examining the material culture and religion of the Tibetan Empire: Faith and Empire: Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism at the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, and Cultural Exchange Along the Silk Road: Masterpieces of the Tubo Period (7th – 9th Century) at the Dunhuang Academy Exhibition Center, Dunhuang (publication forthcoming 2020). Stylistic evidence suggests that this sculpture was most likely produced by Newar craftsmen for Tibetan patrons in the 9th and 10th centuries, tying together Buddhist devotion and ideals of statecraft. It would follow that this magnificent image of Manjushri is among the most important sculptures predating the Second Diffusion of Buddhism, and one of the earliest surviving Buddhist bronzes from Tibet.
     
    Bonhams would like to thank David Pritzker for his assistance with the preparation of this lot.


    銅鎏金文殊菩薩像
    尼泊爾,九或十世紀

    喜馬拉雅藝術資源網68446號
    高37.7釐米(14 7/8 英吋)

    20,000,000-25,000,000港幣

    著錄
    David Weldon與Jane Casey Singer,《The Sculptural Heritage of Tibet:Buddhist Art in the Nyingjei Lam Collection》,倫敦,1999年,頁88-9,圖版11。
    Karl Debreczeny,〈Wutai Shan:Pilgrimage to Five-Peak Mountain〉,《Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies》,6期, 2011年12月,頁72,目錄20。
    Franco Ricca,《Arte Buddhista Tibetana:Dei e Demoni dell'Himalaya》,都靈,2004年,圖IV.11。

    展覽
    「Arte Buddhista Tibetana:Dei e Demoni dell'Himalaya」,布里凱拉西奧宮,都靈,2004年6月18日至9月19日。
    「Wutaishan:Pilgrimage to Five Peak Mountain」,魯賓藝術博物館,紐約,2007年5月10日至10月16日。
    「Casting the Divine:Sculptures of the Nyingjei Lam Collection」,魯賓藝術博物館,紐約,2012年3月2日至2013年2月11日。

    來源
    菩薩道收藏
    借展於阿什莫林博物館,牛津,1996年至2005年
    借展於魯賓藝術博物館,紐約,2005年至2019年

    以上文章之中文版收錄於本場拍賣圖錄《The Path of Compassion:Masterpieces of Buddhist Sculpture》。
Contacts
A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF MANJUSHRI NEPAL, 9TH/10TH CENTURY
A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF MANJUSHRI NEPAL, 9TH/10TH CENTURY
A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF MANJUSHRI NEPAL, 9TH/10TH CENTURY
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