A LARGE GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA NEPAL, THAKURI PERIOD, 10TH CENTURY

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Lot 111
A LARGE GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA
NEPAL, THAKURI PERIOD, 10TH CENTURY

Sold for HK$ 15,660,000 (US$ 2,020,639) inc. premium
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A LARGE GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA
NEPAL, THAKURI PERIOD, 10TH CENTURY
With inlaid semi-precious stones and remains of blue pigment in the hair.
Himalayan Art Resources item no.2118
59.4 cm (23 3/8 in.) high

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Private Collection, acquired in Europe in 1990


    Essay by Jan van Alphen, September 2016

    This svelte Nepalese figure of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Infinite Compassion in Mahayana Buddhism, is a rare and important example of Thakuri-period craftsmanship (9th-12th centuries) in all aspects of modeling, casting, gilding, and insetting of precious stones. It compares directly, in scale and style, to a small group of gilt copper statues found in monasteries and palaces in Tibet that were cast by the highly skilled Newari artists of the Kathmandu valley.

    The Bonhams Avalokiteshvara stands on a circular platform. Two tenons projecting from the underside would have inserted the sculpture into a separate metal or wood base. He is modeled in a gently bent pose (abhanga). His right hand is held down in the gesture of boon giving (varada-mudra), and shows an engraved circular mark in the palm. His left hand, bearing the same mark, is executed in the "ring-hand gesture" (kataka-mudra), with thumb and index forming a ring-shaped opening in which an attribute can be inserted. Seen among similar sculptures, the stem of a separately cast white lotus (padma) would have likely passed through it and flowered by his left shoulder. As such, the sculpture almost certainly represents Avalokiteshvara in the form of Padmapani, the 'lotus-bearer' (Tib. Phyag na padmo).

    He is clad in a loincloth engraved with curved lines evoking the stripes of a tiger skin and yantra or shrivatsa (endless knot) patterns. The garment is secured with a belt around the hips and the folds draped between the legs. He also wears a sash diagonally around the thighs, the knot and its V-shaped ends hanging down on his left side. He has bejeweled ornaments inset with clear red, blue, and green garnets, and rock crystal, following the early Nepalese tradition. Later on, as Tibetan patrons favored turquoise and coral, Newari artists started to exchange the once translucent stones for opaque pieces of turquoise, lapis lazuli, and coral.

    His bejeweled ornamentation is plentiful and yet restrained compared to later examples. His inset armbands are worn high above the biceps leaving his lissome arms swaying unencumbered until simple ring-shaped bracelets adorn his wrists. Meanwhile, an effigy of seated Amitabha occupies the center of his tall and elaborate three-leaf crown. Its band consists of a double-beaded diadem with two round flowers fixed above the ears. Meanwhile, remains of blue pigment within recessed areas of his hair indicate he was once worshipped in Tibet.

    A sacred thread (yajnopavita) descends over his left shoulder with a red garnet on the clasp under the left nipple. Important for dating the sculpture, this thread forms a little loop over the sash, before being tucked under it and continuing across the right thigh and returning across the back to the shoulder. This distinctive loop seems to appear only in sculptures dating to the Thakuri period, in and around the 10th century.

    Examples demonstrating this include two very differently styled standing bodhisattvas in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – one a 10th-century example of Avalokiteshvara more akin to the previous Licchavi style (5th-8th centuries), the other an 11th-century Maitreya with a more elaborate sway that seems to foreshadow later bronzes of the Early Malla period (13th-14th centuries). By the 12th century the loop disappears, as witnessed in an example of Avalokiteshvara held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (acc.#1982.220.2) and a badly damaged yet monumental bodhisattva in the Rubin Museum of Art. By far the closest direct comparison to the Bonhams Avalokiteshvara, however, is held in the Tibet House Museum, New Delhi likely produced at the same atelier around the same time, and also displaying this distinctive yajnopavita loop.

    Avalokiteshvara's origins are quite elaborate and complex. His name first appears in textual sources from the beginning of the Common Era. Observed in the early Buddhist art of Ancient Gandhara, he gradually replaces the Vedic god Brahma as an attendant of Buddha Shakyamuni and inherits Brahma's attribute, the white lotus. He adopts the name Padmapani Lokeshvara, 'The Lord of the World Holding the Lotus'. But the messianic Mahayana Buddhist literature call him Avalokiteshvara, 'The Lord Who Looks Down [with Empathy]', viewed as the ultimate being of compassion, which is the highest virtue in Mahayana Buddhism.

    Conceived as the spiritual son of the Transcendental Buddha Amitabha (lit. 'Infinite Light'), who is regularly presented in his crown or hair, Avalokiteshvara reached enlightenment but waits to dissolve forever into nirvana. He has first vowed to guide and liberate all sentient beings from the bondage of death and rebirth, with all its inherent suffering. These are not only human beings, but also gods, animals, spirits, and demons.

    The essence of his compassionate nature is expressed in the mantra 'om mani padme hum' an invocation of the deity, 'Oh, Jewel-Lotus' (though usually translated as "Om, the Jewel in the Lotus, Hum"). The mantra is recited millions of times a day, and every bead of the Buddhist rosary (japamala), or every turn of the prayer mill invokes Avalokiteshvara's help and compassion.

    The cult of Avalokiteshvara spread rapidly by the 1st century, where in China he became known as Guanshiyin, 'Perceiver of the Sounds of the World', or more briefly Guanyin, 'Perceiver of Sounds'. Guanyin subsequently became Kannon in Japan and Kwanum in Korea. As in the case of the Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamitahrdayasutra), Avalokiteshvara is the chief protagonist and converser in many important Mahayana sutras. He transcends all limitations of material, place, and time, and on occasion receives greater veneration than the Buddha.

    In Tibet, Avalokiteshvara is called Chenrezi (Tib. Spyan ras gzigs). He is the patron deity of Tibet. Its spiritual and political leaders are his incarnations, such as Tibet's first Dharma king Songsten Gampo (604-650, Tib. Srong Btsan Sgam Po) and the Dalai Lamas. The Potala palace in Lhasa is named after his paradisiac abode, Potalaka.

    Returning to the Bonhams Avalokiteshvara, the 10th-century Nepalese sculpture has all the characteristics of the idealized Bodhisattva represented as an attractive young male with princely attire. The elegant arrangement of his jewelry leaves much of the body bare, revealing the supple contours of his slender torso. His attitude and facial expression invoke admiration, compassion, and peace. The Newari artists were masters in doing so. Despite surviving for more than 1,000 years, the Bonhams Avalokiteshvara appears eternally youthful, like the Bodhisattva.


    銅鎏金觀世音菩薩像
    尼泊爾,塔庫裡時期,十世紀
    鑲嵌半寶石,發絲間有藍色顏料殘留。
    喜馬拉雅藝術資源網2118號
    高 59.4 釐米(23 3/8 英寸)

    12,000,000-16,000,000 港元

    來源
    私人收藏,於 1990 年購自歐洲


    文:Jan van Alphen,2016 年 9 月

    觀世音乃大乘佛教中大慈大悲之菩薩,此尊身形修長的尼泊爾觀世音造像為塔庫裡時期(九世紀至十二世紀)罕見且重要的作品,無論造型、鑄造、鎏金與寶石鑲嵌工藝都堪稱典範。在規模和風格上,其與少數現存於西藏寺廟和宮殿中的由加德滿都谷地技藝精湛的尼瓦爾藝術家創作的銅鎏金造像極為相近。

    邦瀚斯的此尊觀世音菩薩像立於一圓形平台之上。其底部伸出的兩個榫頭或曾用於將造像固定於其它金屬或木制底座上。佛像身姿微微傾斜(abhanga),優雅自然。右手向下伸出,施予願印 (varada-mudra),掌心處可見鐫刻的圓形標志。左手掌心處亦有相同圓形紋,其拇指和食指合在一起施"環形手印"(kataka-mudra),環中可放入與其身份相關之物。從類似的造像來看,此手原本極可能持有一枝單獨鑄造的白蓮花 (padma),花干穿過該圓形口,花朵位於左肩處。因此,幾乎可以肯定此尊造像為"蓮花手菩薩"(藏語 Phyag na padmo)。

    造像腰部系有一條帶曲線虎皮狀紋飾之腰布,紋路亦呈 yantrashrivatsa(無盡結)樣式。腰布由環於臀部的腰帶固定,垂懸於兩腿之間,褶皺清晰。大腿處還斜圍有一條飾帶,帶結及 V 型飄帶懸於左側。按照早期尼泊爾的傳統,造像佩戴了嵌有透明紅、藍、綠色寶石和水晶的珠寶配飾。後來,由於西藏主顧更青睞綠松石和珊瑚,尼瓦爾藝術家開始將半透明的寶石替換為不透明的綠松石、青金石和珊瑚。

    盡管此尊造像之珠寶配飾已較為豐富,其與後期造像相比仍顯簡樸而內斂。臂釧佩戴於二頭肌靠上的位置,令手臂姿態優雅並可自如擺動,手腕處飾有簡單的圓形手鐲。同時,高高束起的精致三葉冠的中心還有一微型阿彌陀佛坐像。寶冠另飾以兩行串珠,兩端有圓形花飾於兩耳上方。同時,發絲間仍有藍色顏料殘留,表明此像曾在西藏被膜拜供奉。

    一條聖線 (yajnopavita) 懸掛於其左肩,左胸下方的扣環上飾有一顆紅色寶石。聖線別進飾帶前,在飾帶上方形成一個小環,然後繼續繞過右腿,穿過後背回到肩上,這種獨特的環繞方式對於造像斷代極為重要,可能為十世紀前後的塔庫裡時期所獨有。

    紐約大都會藝術博物館收藏的兩尊風格迥異的菩薩立像可佐證這一結論。一尊是十世紀的觀世音菩薩像,與之前裡查維時期(五世紀至八世紀)的作品風格更為相似;另一尊是十一世紀的彌勒佛像,身體擺動更加自如,似乎是後來馬拉王朝早期(十三世紀至十四世紀)作品的前身。到十二世紀,這種環繞方式便不再盛行,可以藏於大都會藝術博物館的一尊觀音像(館藏號 1982.220.2)和一尊藏於魯賓藝術博物館損壞嚴重卻氣勢宏偉的菩薩像(圖 1)為證。但是,迄今為止,與邦瀚斯的這尊觀世音菩薩像最為相似的作品現藏於新德裡的西藏故居博物館,該造像很可能與本拍品在同一時期造於同一作坊,並且亦帶有此獨特 yajnopavita 環形(圖 2)。

    觀世音菩薩的起源相當錯綜復雜。他的名字首次出現於文本材料中要追溯到公元紀元初期。從古代犍陀羅早期佛教藝術中可以發現,他逐漸取代了吠陀神梵天成為釋迦牟尼佛的隨從,沿襲了梵天特有的白蓮花。他采用 Padmapani Lokeshvara 一名,寓意為"手持蓮花的世主"。但有關救世的大乘佛教文獻中將其稱為觀世音菩薩,寓意"普渡眾生的菩薩",這被視為大善的最高境界,大乘佛教的最高美德。

    觀世音菩薩被視為先驗阿彌陀佛("無量光佛",時而戴冠時而裸發)的精神之子,他雖已得頓悟,卻駐足世間以化永恆為涅槃 (nirvana)。他是首位許願指引眾生的菩薩,將眾生從死亡、重生以及無盡苦難的束縛中解救出來。這不僅指人類,亦包括神靈、動物、與妖魔。

    他極富同情心的特征體現在"嗡嘛呢叭咪吽" 六字真言中,這是神的召喚,意為"哦,蓮花寶石"(盡管通常譯為"嗡,蓮花中的寶石,吽"。此咒語每天會被誦讀數百萬次,每撥動一顆佛珠 (japamala) 或每一次轉經都將能求得觀世音菩薩的幫助和慈悲。

    對觀世音菩薩的崇拜在一世紀迅速傳播,在中國,他被稱為"觀世音",即"世界聲音的感知者",或簡稱為"觀音",即"聲音的感知者"。後來,觀音在日本被稱為"堪寧",在韓國得名"關庵"。如同般若波羅蜜多心經 (Prajnaparamitahrdayasutra) 中一樣,觀世音菩薩在許多重要的大乘佛經中是主要的菩薩形像和傳道者。他超越了所有物質、空間和時間的限制,有時甚至比佛祖受到更高崇敬。

    在西藏,觀世音菩薩被稱為陳裡茲(藏語Spyan ras gzigs)。他是西藏的守護神,精神和政治領袖,如西藏的首位達摩王松贊干布(公元 604-650 年,藏語 Srong Btsan Sgam Po)和達賴喇嘛都是觀世音菩薩的化身。拉薩的布達拉宮是以他在至福境地的居所布達拉命名的。

    回到邦瀚斯的這尊觀世音菩薩像,此尊十世紀的尼泊爾造像體現了理想菩薩的所有特質,刻畫為服飾上乘、極具魅力的青年男子形像。簡潔典雅的珠寶裝飾使其軀體大多裸露在外,凸顯出其修長的體型與柔和的輪廓。他的儀態與面部表情喚起觀者的崇敬、悲憫與平靜之情,而尼瓦爾藝術家則是這方面的大師。盡管已有 1,000 多年的歷史,邦瀚斯此尊觀世音像如菩薩一般青春永駐。
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A LARGE GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA NEPAL, THAKURI PERIOD, 10TH CENTURY
A LARGE GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA NEPAL, THAKURI PERIOD, 10TH CENTURY
A LARGE GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA NEPAL, THAKURI PERIOD, 10TH CENTURY
A LARGE GILT COPPER FIGURE OF AVALOKITESHVARA NEPAL, THAKURI PERIOD, 10TH CENTURY
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