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    Sale 2117

    The Ideal Image Eight Masterpieces Of Indian And Southeast Asian Art

    21 March 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 503

    An Important gilt copper figure of Avalokiteshvara


    Price Realised  


    An Important gilt copper figure of Avalokiteshvara
    Nepal, Licchavi Period, 8th/9th century
    Solidly cast standing in elegant tribhanga with his right hand lowered in compassion, wearing a diaphanous dhoti incised with bands of diaper patterns and secured with a sash tied around his hips, the sacred thread draped over his torso and dangling over his dhoti, adorned with armlets, earrings and a foliate tiara, with remains of gilding overall
    11½ in. (29.2 cm.) high

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    This is a superb example of early Licchavi period sculpture in Nepal as exemplified by gracefully flowing lines and soft features. Cast from copper, the figure displays the elegance of form of post-Gupta sculpture, the dhoti finely incised with textile patterns of the period. The rounded facial features still display a close relationship to the Sarnath style. The flaming halo is most effectively executed and the foliate crown displays a remarkable feature as it bears an image of a standing Amitabha, the spiritual father of Avalokiteshvara.
    As is typical for the period, the original fire gilding is relatively thin and now mostly worn, yet the fluidity of form and the warm copper tone is thus even more enhanced.
    This bronze favorably compares with the famous eighth century figure of Vajrapani from the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection. The dhoti is similarly secured with a diagonally bound billowing sash and finely incised with linear bands, see P. Pal, Art of Nepal, 1985, fig. S6, p. 90.
    Compare also with a figure of Avalokiteshvara with a similar integrated flaming halo, in P. Pal, The Arts of Nepal, 1974, fig. 190, and a further figure bearing a seated figure in the crown, fig. 295. In all occurances of Amitabha in the headdress of Avalokiteshvara it is far less common to display the figure standing as in the present example.


    European Collection

    Pre-Lot Text

    The Compassionate Saviour
    According to the Mahayana doctrine, Avalokiteshvara made a great vow to listen to the prayers of all sentient beings in times of difficulty and to postpone his own Buddhahood until he had assisted every being on earth in achieving nirvana.
    Befitting his mission, he is en embodiment of grace and compassion, a classic image of a Bodhisattva as perfected during the Licchavi period in Nepal, a kingdom centered around the Kathmandu Valley from around the 5th to the 8th centuries.
    After working diligently at this task for a very long time, he looked out and realized the immense number of miserable beings yet to be saved. He became despondent and his head split into a thousand pieces. Amitabha Buddha put the pieces back together as a body with a thousand arms, an eye on each palm to see the suffering in the world and eleven heads, the top of which is Amitabha, allowing Avalokiteshvara to assist the myriad of sentient beings all at the same time.
    He is known by different names in different lands: as Avalokiteshvara in the ancient Sanskrit language of India, as Guanyin in China, and as Kannon in Japan.

    Various Properties