A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF AKSHOBHYA TIBET, 15TH CENTURY
Lot 22
A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF AKSHOBHYA
TIBET, 15TH CENTURY
HK$ 15,000,000 - 25,000,000
US$ 1,900,000 - 3,200,000

Lot Details
A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF AKSHOBHYA TIBET, 15TH CENTURY A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF AKSHOBHYA TIBET, 15TH CENTURY A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF AKSHOBHYA TIBET, 15TH CENTURY A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF AKSHOBHYA TIBET, 15TH CENTURY A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF AKSHOBHYA TIBET, 15TH CENTURY A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF AKSHOBHYA TIBET, 15TH CENTURY
A GILT COPPER ALLOY FIGURE OF AKSHOBHYA
TIBET, 15TH CENTURY
With inset turquoise, garnets, and lapis, and with powdered blue lapis pigment in the hair.
Himalayan Art Resources item no.2431
34 cm (13 3/8 in.) high

Footnotes

  • Published
    Rossi & Rossi Ltd, Images of Faith: A Private Collection of Himalayan Art, London, 2008, pp.22-3, no.5.
    Rossi & Rossi Ltd, Gods and Demons of the Himalayas, London, 2012, pp.31-2, no.15.

    Provenance
    European Private Collection, acquired in the early 1990s
    Rossi & Rossi Ltd
    American Private Collection, acquired from the above in 2012


    Lord of the East

    "The importance of Akshobhya, whose very emblem is used in esoteric rituals and sacred dances in its own right, is reflected in the high number of tantric deities belonging to his family, including the tutelary deities of Buddha rank, such as Hevajra."
    (Erberto Lo Bue, Images of Faith, London, 2008, p.22)

    This exquisite jewel-like sculpture depicts Akshobhya, the Buddha of the East, with a powerful frame and commanding posture. He is clad in a monastic patchwork robe with prominent stitched seams converted into the finest conceivable brocaded garment of floral scrolls and raised flowers, inset with semi-precious stones. The middle fingers and thumb of his left hand cup a humble ungilded alms bowl in his lap, perhaps the only reminder of Buddhism's renunciation of material wealth on this magnificent golden sculpture.

    Akshobhya's name literally means 'Immovable One'. As each Transcendental Buddha adopts one of the canonical hand gestures (mudras) referring to a key moment in Shakyamuni's life, it is apt that Akshobhya should recall Shakyamuni's unshakeable determination against the armies and temptations of Mara. In mandalas relating to his 'vajra' clan, and the Unexcelled Yoga tantras (Anuttarayoga), he occupies the center, but in the earliest tantric mandalas where the Five Transcendental Buddhas first appear, he is Lord of the eastern quadrant, and represents the transmutation of anger into wisdom.

    Asserting his position as Lord of the East, this sculpture depicts Akshobhya wielding his symbol of 'adamantine power', the vajra, secured in his right hand. As the iconographer Robert Beer describes:

    "The vajra or dorje is the quintessential symbol of the 'diamond vehicle' or Vajrayana Buddhist path...[it] symbolizes the impenetrable, immovable, immutable, indivisible, and indestructible state of enlightenment or Buddhahood as vajra mind.

    "As the adamantine scepter of peaceful divinities and the indestructible weapon of wrathful deities, the vajra symbolizes the male principle of method or skillful means. It is held in the right or male hand."

    (Beer, The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, London, 1999, p.233)

    This bronze is a rare example of Akshobhya Buddha holding his vajra in the right hand, differing from more typical depictions of it suspended vertically in his lap, resting on the lotus throne, or embedded into his throne's center. This symbolic departure from convention imbues the sculpture with heightened agency.

    His powerful frame, bejeweled robe, and resolute gaze deliver a sculpture that is an aesthetic tour de force. The combination of orderly inset stones and finely incised designs are seemingly unique to this sculpture and indicates a special commission. The visionary artist has excelled beyond the application of more commonplace patchwork designs and delivered a sculpture of transcendent visual presence.

    The broadness of Akshobhya's forehead and shoulders, his pronounced chest, and the flare of his robe's fishtail hem resting high on his left shoulder are stylistic elements with precedents in Newari sculpture of the 13th and 14th century. The same general physiognomic features can be observed in a Malla-style Akshobhya sold previously at Bonhams. From the present sculpture's impeccable quality, it is reasonable to assume that a Newari hand would have been involved in its creation also.

    These physical characteristics remained the favored idiom throughout 15th-century Tibet, as did depicting Buddha images wearing a patchwork robe. Related Buddha images attesting to this are a mid-15th-century thangka of Shakyamuni in the British Museum (Rhie & Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion, New York, 1996, p.77, no.3), and a 15th-century gilded bronze sold at Sotheby's, New York, 30 November 1994, lot 68. In discussion of the former, Rhie & Thurman note that these elements are similar to those appearing in the 15th-century murals of Tabo monastery in Western Tibet, suggesting "a wide distribution of artistic styles at the time, particularly between central and western regions" (op. cit.).

    Rhie & Thurman also remark that by the second half of the 15th century there appears to be a deliberate transition away from the imposing monumentality of 13th and 14th century styles, towards a "process of refinement and elaboration".

    The appearance of monks and buddhas dressed in patchwork robes in Tibetan art dates as far back as the Chidar, otherwise known as the second wave of Tibet's apprenticeship of Indian Buddhism between the 11th and 13th centuries. But in Tibet, more precious garments rapidly replaced the humble Indian patchwork robe. By the 15th century, the patchwork robe is transformed into the finest conceivable garment of the period, a transformation that perfectly exemplifies the "refinement and elaboration" of this period.

    At least one painted mural and one monumental clay sculpture at the Gyantse Kumbum draw an uncanny resemblance to the present sculpture's robe. Both are dated to the first years of the Kumbum's construction in the 2nd quarter of the 15th century. Each shares the design of narrow strips with floral sprays bordering rectangular panels with a central flower roundel. The striking likeness between these three sculptures suggests they were produced by the same network of artists, if not at Gyantse itself.

    The Kumbum at the heart of the Sakya Pelchor Chode enclave in Gyantse is one of the largest structures in Tibet, constructed between 1427-74. With strong ties to the emperors of the early Ming (1st half of the 15th century), the presiding Sakya monks received innumerable diplomatic gifts in the form of Buddha images and fine textiles. This is attested by the significant holdings of Yongle and Xuande mark and period bronzes and scrolls in Gyantse repositories (see Thomas Laird, Murals of Tibet, Taschen, forthcoming 2018).

    A result of this climate of great cultural exchange between China and Tibet, the large roundels within the primary hemlines of the Gyantse and present Buddha images are informed by late Yuan-/early Ming-dynasty textiles, such as a patchwork panel with similar patterns held in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Similar design is also reflected in a lacquered and painted leather box in The Metropolitan Museum of Art that was mostly likely made for a Tibetan visitor to the Chinese court. Stemming from the Yuan period, the foliate scrolls within the present robe's narrower strips also bear a strong resemblance to the decoration on Yuan-dynasty sculpture published by Bigler, Before Yongle, Zurich, 2013, pp.84-95, nos.19-21.

    While related to the murals and clay sculptures of Gyantse, the present sculpture remains the only known gilt bronze with this impressive incised and inset treatment of its robe. Both techniques are ubiquitous throughout Tibetan bronze sculpture, and yet the convention of using inset stones to pattern textiles – in addition to jewelry – appears unique to the 14th and 15th centuries. One of few other instances where we see semi-precious stones being used to signify textile patterns is at Densatil. However, unlike the sculptures of Densatil, this Akshobhya may be the only known Tibetan bronze to embellish its textile design with both inset stones and incised patterns simultaneously.

    The present lot is a gleaming testament to a period in Tibetan art history when both patron and artist sought to cherish their images with greater elaboration and refinement. The previous humility of the Buddha's simple patchwork robe has transformed into one of the finest and rarest examples in gilded sculpture. Certain design elements lock the time of production within the 15th century, resulting from cultural exchange between prominent Tibetan monastic enclaves and the late Yuan and early Ming Imperial courts. An example of one such pivotal enclave, which still holds many relevant imperial gifts, and has closely related Buddha images remaining in situ, is the Sayka Pelchor Chode in Gyantse, suggesting a possible place of production for the bronze here or somewhere within its artistic sphere of influence. And yet this potent image of Akshobhya, the immovable Lord of the East, stands high among surviving gilt bronzes as one of the most beautiful Buddha images from Tibet.


    銅鎏金阿閦佛像
    西藏,十五世紀

    佛身鑲嵌綠松石、石榴石、及青金石,發間塗有藍色青金石粉。
    喜馬拉雅藝術資源網2431號
    高34釐米(13 3/8 英吋)

    15,000,000 - 25,000,000港元

    著錄
    Rossi & Rossi Ltd,Images of Faith: A Private Collection of Himalayan Art ,倫敦,2008年,頁22-23,5號
    Rossi & Rossi Ltd,Gods and Demons of the Himalayas,倫敦,2012年9月,頁31-32,15號

    來源
    歐洲私人珍藏,購於上世紀九十年代初
    Rossi & Rossi Ltd
    美國私人珍藏,於2012年購自上述古董商


    東方之神

    「阿閦佛之獨立形象常見於密宗儀軌及舞蹈之中,其法界所擁有的密宗神祇數量最盛,包括喜金剛一類的佛陀果位守護神,均體現出阿閦佛之重要地位。」
    (Erberto Lo Bue,Images of Faith,倫敦,2008年,頁22)

    此尊造像精美無比,氣勢威嚴,輪廓有力,生動再現了阿閦佛,五方如來之中的東方佛。其身著之網紋袈裟非同一般,不僅以錦緞相織,花枝紋相飾,更以半寶石點綴其間。 佛陀以左手拇指及中指輕托一樸實無華的鉢盂。在此尊璀璨華麗的造像身上,恐怕也只有此鉢盂可用以提醒世人佛陀對遠離物質財富的教誨。

    阿閦佛之梵語名意為「不動之尊」。五智如來之中每位結不同手印,以代表釋迦摩尼一生中之不同重要時刻。阿閦佛之觸地印則代表了其斥退一切魔羅誘惑以獲得證悟之決心。在金剛界曼荼羅以及無上瑜伽續中,阿閦佛常被置於中心;然而在五方佛最早出現的早期密宗曼荼羅中,阿閦佛則為主持東方法界,可化嗔恚為智慧。

    此處東方佛以右手持金剛杵,其「金剛法力」之象徵。正如圖像學專家Robert Beer所描述:

    「金剛杵為金剛乘精髓之象徵⋯⋯象徵正等正覺之堅不可摧、實不可破、固不可分之狀態,固若金剛之精神領悟。

    作為寂靜相神祇之法器以及憤怒相神祇之武器,金剛杵象徵「方便道」之男性原則,應以右手持握。」

    (Beer,The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs,倫敦,1999年,頁233)

    此拍品刻畫阿閦佛右手持握金剛杵,該形象極為少見。在常見阿閦佛像中,金剛杵或直立於佛陀盤腿之上,或橫躺於蓮花寶座之上,或一半嵌入寶座之中。此處金剛杵的位置背離了傳統慣例,為造像增添了力量感。

    無論從身型、裝飾和神情的角度,此尊造像均堪稱傑作。鑲嵌寶石與雕刻紋飾相輔相成,此兩種裝飾技巧的結合實為獨特,說明此作品並非為尋常之作。藝術家亦竭盡全力,對袈裟的刻畫脫離常軌,達到了意想不到的視覺效果。

    作品的多處細節都遵循了十三十四世紀紐瓦爾造像的風格特徵,比如其寬闊的額頭及肩膀,厚實的前胸,以及其左肩上高垂的魚尾狀衫腳。相同的風格元素可見於邦瀚斯以前拍賣中的一尊馬拉風格阿閦佛造像。本拍品製作工藝完美,很可能有紐瓦爾藝術家參與其中。

    此些體形特徵及對網紋袈裟的使用在十五世紀的西藏亦備受藝術家青睞,其在多件存世作品身上均有體現。比如大英博物館館藏中的一幅十五世紀中期釋迦摩尼唐卡(參見Rhie與Thurman,智慧與慈悲,紐約,1996年,頁77,3號), 以及在1994年11月30日售於蘇富比紐約的一尊十五世紀銅鎏金造像(拍品68號)。在討論上述大英博物館唐卡之時,Rhie與Thurman提到此些風格元素亦與藏西塔波寺內的十五世紀壁畫十分相近,說明"藝術風格在當時傳播廣泛,特別是在中部和西部地區之間"(引用文獻如上)。

    Rhie與Thurman認為,自十五世紀下半葉起,藝術家似乎有意偏離十三與十四世紀強調體量與氣勢的風格,轉而走向一個注重"精緻細節的過程"。

    僧侶與佛陀身著網紋袈裟的形象早自后弘期時(十一至十三世紀)便已出現。然而在西藏,更為奢華的服裝很快便取代了樸素的印度式網紋袈裟。到十五世紀之時,此款袈裟已經搖身一變成為當時最為上乘的衣著,此一變化恰恰證實了這個時代對"精緻細節"的關注。

    江孜千佛塔內的一面壁畫與一尊陶製造像均描繪了與本拍品極其相似的袈裟。兩件作品均於十五世紀中葉前,即千佛塔建成初期創作。袈裟上佈滿矩形單元,每格之中心飾有圓形花紋,不同單元之間以花枝紋細帶相間。此三件作品的紋飾相似程度驚人,說名此尊銅像可能產自江攻,或至少出自同一組藝術家之手。

    千佛塔地處江孜白居寺一帶之中心,是西藏最大的建築結構之一,於1427年至1474年間建成。 高層寺僧於明朝早期(十五世紀上半葉)皇帝關係密切,曾收取大量外交饋贈,包括佛造像及高級織物。江孜擁有大量帶有永樂宣德款的佛像及書畫,便是對上述事實的有力證明(參見Thomas Laird,Murals of Tibet, 塔申出版社,計畫於2018年發行)。

    此時期西藏與中原文化交往頻繁密切,在此環境下,上文所描述的矩形單元中的圓形花紋應源於元代末期或明代早期的中原織物。藏於紐約大都會博物館的一塊網紋布料便帶有相似紋飾。類似的裝飾亦可見於該博物館所藏的一隻彩繪旅行箱,此箱很可能為到訪中原朝廷的西藏訪客而做。袈裟細帶上的卷枝紋應來自元代,一些元代造像亦帶有相同紋飾,參見Bigler,Before Yongle,蘇黎世,2013年,頁84-95,19-21號。

    雖然與江孜的壁畫和陶製佛像相關,但是本尊阿閦佛像是鎏金造像中目前僅知唯一帶有如此精美紋飾的作品。鑲嵌寶石和雕刻紋飾這兩種工藝在西藏造像傳統中均屬常見,然而寶石多鑲嵌於人物所戴的珠寶首飾,如此拍品一般以嵌寶裝飾衣著的做法為十四十五世紀所獨有。在丹薩替寺的造像中亦可見在服飾上嵌半寶石的例子,然而此尊造像同時使用寶石和刻紋裝飾袈裟,在西藏造像中可能僅此一例。

    在西藏藝術史上有一個崇尚細節的時代,此時期的供養人和藝術家均竭盡全力追求作品的華麗與完美,而此尊阿閦佛像便是這個時代的佐證。早期的樸素袈裟演化成最為稀有上乘的鎏金造像。特定的設計元素來源於有威望的西藏寺院與元晚期明早期宮廷間的文化交流,進而將本拍品的斷代鎖定於十五世紀。江孜薩迦白居寺一帶藏有大量宮廷贈禮以及與此尊造像緊密相關的藝術作品,由此可推測其可能來自這一地區或其他與此地區有藝術交流之處。本拍品以上乘的工藝再現了掌管東方法界的阿閦佛,其氣勢非凡,精妙入神,無疑從現存西藏佛教造像中脫穎而出。
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