Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
A RARE EARLY MING GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF VAJRASATTVA
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
A RARE EARLY MING GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF VAJRASATTVA

Details
A RARE EARLY MING GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF VAJRASATTVA
XUANDE INCISED SIX-CHARACTER MARK AND OF THE PERIOD (1426-1435)

Finely cast seated in dhyanasana on a double lotus base with left hand holding a ghanta at the waist, the right hand raised in karanamudra and holding an upright vajra, the deity wearing a long, flowing shawl exposing the elaborately jewelled necklace above the bejewelled dhoti tied at the waist, the elongated earlobes pendent with large earrings on either side of the serene face, the hair pulled up into a high coiffure with two long braids, surmounted by a lotus bud behind the tiered jewelled crown, the base inscribed with Daming Xuande Nianshi, 'Bestowed in the Xuande period of the Great Ming Dynasty'
7 in. (17.7 cm.) high

Condition Report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

Vajrasattva, whose name translates as 'Adamantine Being', is also known as the Buddha of Purification, and is one of the most important deities in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon. Vajrasattva's attributes, the vajra and ghanta, symbolising compassion and wisdom, but also the male and female aspects, are held at the chest and waist, and corresponding to tantric method, the deity is shown holding the vajra in the right hand, and the ghanta in the left.

During the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries, the authority of Mongol rulers had become closely associated with Tibetan Buddhist or Lamaist rituals. At the beginning of the 15th century, the Buddhist fervour of the Ming court encouraged a cultural exchange between Tibet and China through Imperial patronage. Bronze sculptures in the Tibeto-Chinese style were first produced during the reign of Emperor Yongle (1403-1424) and are highly distinguished for their unsurpassed craftsmanship, overall refinement and gracefulness. Emperor Yongle (1403-25), a devout Buddhist himself, bestowed generous patronage to Buddhist monasteries and artistic ateliers, fostering the production of artworks depicting Tibetan Buddhist deities and imagery in a highly refined style, executed with the highest level of technical mastery. Gilt bronzes were commissioned from the Imperial workshops in Beijing for personal religious practices and as gifts for the many Tibetan emissaries invited to the court.

Relatively fewer examples bearing the reign mark of the following period, Xuande, exist and the present example is stylistically very closely related to its Yongle predecessors. See the essay for lot 1959 for more details on the production of gilt bronze buddhist images during the Xuande reign. The present figure would have been made at the Imperial ateliers in Beijing, most probably during the early phase of the period by the same craftsmen who continued their work from the Yongle period.

The current example is one of the more elaborately decorated and finely cast, with delicate features and a strong sense of movement that give the figure its life-like quality. Compare a very closely related figure of Vajrasattva bearing the Yongle reign mark, of almost the same size and similar treatment of the drapery, sold at Christie's New York, 17 September 2008, lot 587. Compare an example in the Berti Aschmann Collection, illustrated by H. Uhlig, On the Path to Enlightenment, Museum Reitberg Zurich, 1995, cat. no. 22. See, also, a slightly larger (20.6 cm. high) Yongle-marked gilt-bronze figure of Vajrasattva illustrated in Buddhist Images in Gilt Metal, Chang Foundation, Taipei, 1995, no. 61. Another similar, though larger (24.2 cm. high) example, was sold at Christie's New York, 22 March 2000, lot 96.

More from The Imperial Sale Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

View All
View All