Nepal has been one of the great Buddhist centers of the world. Situated between India to the south and Tibet and China just beyond the Himalayan range to the north, the Kathmandu Valley holds a unique geographic position. Influenced by these neighboring cultures, the Newari artisans developed a rich local style, particularly with regards to metalwork. Renowned for their masterful casting techniques, Newari sculptors were revered throughout the region.
Indra, the Lord of the Gods, plays a central role in the legends, life and art of Nepal. This magnificent sculpture depicts Indra seated in rajalilasana, the pose of “Royal Ease”. This relaxed posture, with one arm draped gracefully over a raised knee denoting pleasure or indulgence, is similarly reflected in Chinese Song sculptures of Guanyin (Avalokiteshvara). Developed locally, depictions of Indra in rajalilasana have become one of the most recognizable images in Nepalese art history.
The Ellsworth Indra is rendered with his vajra resting on a lotus flower behind his left shoulder. He wears an ornate crescent-shaped crown, a feature specific to Nepalese imagery. His square forehead is centered with a horizontal third eye, while his almond-shaped eyes, aquiline nose and subtle smile create an expression of joyful serenity. Draped in jewelry, the body is languid and supple with rounded broad shoulders, a tapered waist and elongated arms. Compare with a 15th/16th century Indra from the James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection sold in these rooms on 22 March 2011, lot 80. The beautifully rendered Ellsworth Indra personifies the grace of Nepalese bronze sculpture. It is undoubtedly for this reason that Mr. Ellsworth kept this work on his bedroom headboard, among his most cherished personal possessions.