A RARE AND SUPERBLY CAST GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF PANJARNATA MAHAKALA
A RARE AND SUPERBLY CAST GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF PANJARNATA MAHAKALA
A RARE AND SUPERBLY CAST GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF PANJARNATA MAHAKALA
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A RARE AND SUPERBLY CAST GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF PANJARNATA MAHAKALA

MING DYNASTY, 15TH CENTURY

Details
A RARE AND SUPERBLY CAST GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF PANJARNATA MAHAKALA
MING DYNASTY, 15TH CENTURY
The protector deity is standing with a fierce expression holding a kartri and kapala in each of his hands. His bearded face is cast with the bulging third eye, all his eyes painted with red and black pigments. His hair is pulled into a flaming chignon secured with a foliate tiara. The figure is further adorned with celestial scarves billowing across the shoulder and a garland with snakes and skulls on the neck and arms. His waist is encircled with an elaborate apron, fitted on a separate double-lotus stand cast with a supine figure on top. The back of the base is incised with the characters shang zuo er ‘second of upper left’, while the flange below the left foot of the deity is incised with the characters er shang zuo er ‘second of upper left second’.
12 1/8 in. (31 cm.) high, box
Provenance
Sold at Sotheby’s New York, 20 September 2002, lot 63
Rossi & Rossi, 2009

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Lot Essay

The inscriptions found on the current figure and stand, shang zuo er and er shang zuo er, are likely to be numbering systems for their placement in a specific order and location.
Panjarnata Mahakala is often, but not always, depicted balancing a baton, Gandhi, in the crooks of his arms, from which all other forms of Mahakala are thought to emanate. However, even in the absence of the baton, the single-faced, two-armed wrathful deity holding the kartri and kapala is unmistakably Panjarnata Mahakala, the ‘Lord of the Pavilion’. Panjarnata Mahakala is the special protector of the Hevajra cycle of Tantras in the Sakya School; his iconography and rituals are found in the 18th chapter of the Vajra Panjara Tantra, as well as in chapters 25 and 50 of the Mahakala Tantras.
Although the current figure is not inscribed with a reign mark, it closely relates in style to the imperial gilt-bronze figures of the Yongle and Xuande periods. Compare with a very similar gilt-iron figure of Panjaranata Mahakala with a Yongle mark in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in the Splendors from the Yongle and Xuande Reigns of Chinas Ming Dynasty: Classics of the Forbidden City, Beijing, 2012, p.247 no. 133; and another similar gilt-bronze figure of Panjarnata Mahakala from the Yongle period in the Potala Palace, Tibet, illustrated in The Times and the Styles of Statues of Buddha in Chinese Buddhism, Beijing, 2010, p.216, fig. 234.
Compare also to a slightly smaller figure of Panjarnata Mahakala (27.8 cm.), cast with a very similar posture, dating to the Yongle to Xuande period, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30 May 2018, lot 2863 (fig. 1), as well as a slightly larger gilt-bronze example, dating to the 17th century, formerly in the Nitta Collection, exhibited in National Palace Museum, The Crucible of Compassion and Wisdom, Taipei, 1987, Catalogue, pl. 32.

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