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    Sale 2248

    Masterpieces of Himalayan Bronzes

    15 September 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 13

    An important and large gilt bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara


    Price Realised  


    An important and large gilt bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara
    Kashmir school in Western Tibet, 9th/10th century
    Expressively cast standing with his right hand lowered in the open-handed gesture of compassion varada mudra and his left hand resting against his hips, wearing a long dhoti finely incised with alternating bands patterned with diamonds and florets, an eloborate beaded necklace, armlets and a sash, all with pendent jewels, the ears with a diamond pendant and large earrings, the chest well-defined and powerfully modeled, his face with a benign expression with large almond-shaped eyes inlaid in silver, surmounted by a headdress of crescent moons enclosing jewels, with undulating sashes flaring down to the shoulders
    27 in. (68.5 cm.) high

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    This is a most remarkable bronze marking a milestone at the very emergence of a flourishing tradition of casting bronze images in Tibet, of large size for its period and one of very few existing examples that were gilt. It displays classic Kashmiri stylistic elements, for example in the pronounced modeling of the muscles around the navel and strong upper torso, the accentuated roundness of the beaded jewelry following Indian Pala period prototypes, and silver inlaid eyes. The crown type is first noted in Bamiyan, while the triple crescent crown with side rosettes as in the present example, is characteristic of Kashmiri style of the 8th/9th century, as is the dhoti worn with one short leg secured with a sash hanging down between the flexed legs, see D. Klimburg-Salter, The Silk Route and the Diamond Path, 1982, pp. 104, 163 and pl. 30. The two different types of earrings point to an Indian tradition along with the beaded jewelry and is a highly unusual feature in the Kashmiri context.
    These elements of style and fashion were introduced to Western Tibet most notably during the second propagation of Buddhism from the mid 10th century onward. This figure represents an extremely important early example for Kashmiri craftsmen -- and to a lesser degree the influence of artisans from Himachal Pradesh -- likely working in the Guge Kingdom of Western Tibet during the earliest phase, illustrative of the transfer of an iconographic type from Kashmir to Tibetan artists. The epitome of this exchange was reached at the very end of the 10th century, when Rinchen Zangpo, the 'Great Translator', commissioned an image of Avalokiteshvara in homage to his father from the image maker Bidhaka in Kashmir in 998. It was installed at Kha-tse, Western Tibet, where it still remains and where it was first identified by Thomas and David Pritzker based on biographical accounts of Rinchen Zangpo, see D. Pritzker, 'The Treasures of Par and Kha-tse,' Orientations, September 2000, pp. 131-33, ill. p. 133. Zangpo's biography further states that he returned from Kashmir with 32 artists and craftsmen to work for Tibetan patrons, see U. von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, vol. 1, 2001, p. 74.
    For other examples of this iconographic type, compare with a large figure of Avalokiteshvara in the Pritzker Collection, with a similarly modeled torso, see A. Heller, Tibetan Art, 1999, cat. no. 34; a figure of Vajrasattva at the Potala Palace, dated circa 10th century, in U. von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculpture in Tibet, vol. 1, 2001, cat. no. 31B-C; a figure in the same stance, identified as Manjushri, at the Jokang, see U. von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculpture in Tibet, 2001, vol. 1, pl. 41B-E, p. 155; and a closely related example of Padmapani, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, in U. von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, 1981, fig. 22A, with similarly modeled details, specifically regarding the jewelry and textile designs. The above mentioned examples all display ornate floral garlands and greater ornamentation, while the present example, with its powerful modeling of the torso and clarity in the overall design with plain garland, is likely of earlier date.