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A large and important bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara
A large and important bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara


A large and important bronze figure of Avalokiteshvara
Khmer, Angkor period, Bayon style, late 12th Century
Well cast and powerfully modeled with his eight arms radiating and holding in his right hands a seated divinity, a book, an elephant goad and a vajra, his left hands holding a sword, a flask of nectar, a rosary and a wheel, wearing a short sampot secured with a belt with pendent jewels, his face with a benign expression with heavy lidded eyes, his hair, torso, and arms incised with minuscule representations of seated Buddhas, with miniature figures set on his toes and knees and around the cylindrical chignon centered by Amitabha, with further seated Buddhas in relief forming a necklace and bracelets around his arms and ankles, the patina of silvery green color
23 in. (59.2 cm.) high

Lot Essay

The sacking of Angkor in 1177 resulted in innovative iconographical developments under Jayavarman VII towards a more potent theology incorporating Tantric and Esoteric Buddhist elements and cosmic symbolism devised to protect the empire. This form of a "Radiating Avalokiteshvara" represents one of the most complex iconographic forms. The karandavyuhasutra states that 'Avalokiteshvara, Lord of Infinite Compassion, bears the whole universe in his body. Every pore of his skin constitutes a world of its own filled with every kind of living being. His radiant spiritual power, symbolized by Amitabha, quickens in all these beings the Buddha nature that dwells within them.' The eight arms refer to the eight major directions, symbolizing cosmic totality. Also characteristic is the presence of an expressive smile, symbolic of Avalokiteshvara's compassion.
Only very few bronzes of this type are known, generally of smaller size and less elaborate detail. Other examples are in the Walters Art Gallery, see H. Woodward, Jr., The Sacred Sculpture of Thailand, The Alexander B. Griswold Collection, The Walters Art Gallery, 1997, fig. 78, cat. no. 28; in the Phnom Penh Museum, see G. Coeds, Bronzes Khmrs, 1923, pl. XXXII; and a smaller and incomplete example in the Muse Guimet, Paris, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia, Millenium of Glory, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. et al., 1997, cat. no. 97, pp. 313f.


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