Lot 2509
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Winter Auction: Arts of the East: Asian Ceramics & Works of Art | 14 December 2022
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A bronze Śyāmātārā (Green Tārā) with traces of gilt

13th/14th century, Tibet

A hollow cast bronze Buddhist image of a Tārā from Tibet sitting on a double lotus.

In comparison with most of Asia, Buddhism arrived late in Tibet. It wasn’t present before the seventh century and did not become firmly established for another three centuries. Tibet remained independent into the mid-twentieth century, when it came under Chinese rule. Chinese influence however appeared early, by the end of the Yuan dynasty during the thirteenth century, and it became noticeable in the arts from the Ming dynasty in the early fifteenth century onwards.[1] From that the term Sino-Tibetan art is more apt than simply Tibetan art. This graceful detailed bronze Śyāmātārā or Green Tārā is cast in one piece and reflects the composite nature of much of early Tibetan art. The hand gestures and pose of this sculpture and Sino-Tibetan art in general, are similar to those of nearby Nepalese images, while gilding, heavy casting and attention to the details of decoration and dress reveal the Chinese influence.

Tārā refers to a group of female deities with a reference to different colours. Tārā is one of the five Dhyāni-Buddhas (Vairocana, Akṣobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitābha, Amoghasiddhi) and representations of the five qualities of the historical Buddha. From the colour of the different Tārās (white, blue, yellow, red, green) it is possible to refer them to their respective Kulas or families presided over by the five Dhyāni Buddhas. This Green Tārā is one of the most popular deities in Tibet.[2] She is said to save from the "eight perils," (Aṣṭamahābhaya) which are sometimes seen as physical and sometimes spiritual. Whether the Tārā figure originated as a Buddhist or Brāhmanical (Hindu) figure, is a source of dispute among scholars until today. Many icons depicting Tārā were neglected till long after they were excavated or acquired by archaeologists working in (Eastern) India in the late nineteenth century. Many images have lain unrecognised and unheeded even by the Archaeological Survey Department, in the belief that they were uninteresting Hindu images, as many of them are worshipped as Brāhmanical gods at village shrines. [3] It is widely assumed that Tārā with her emblems par excellence, varadamudrā and utpala (blue lotus), was fully evolved at Nālandā in the sixth century A.D. and based on archaelogical and textual evidences it appears that the cult of Tārā originated in Eastern India.[4] With her right hand in varadamudrā and the utpala (lotus) in the left, also this sculpture has these bare essential iconographical markers of an Indic female divinity. Also the Purāṇic goddess Lakşmi or Śri has been associated with this iconography from as early as pre-Kuṣāṇa empire era.[5]

In Buddhism the name Tārā is associated with the concept of “crossing over” and protects its worshippers as they cross the "ocean of existence". She helps them to become free from Saṃsāra (“continuous movement”). Saṃsāra refers to the concept of a cycle of birth (jāti). All beings in the universe apply to its rules, and can only be escaped through enlightenment. According to Buddha there is no starting or ending point of Saṃsāra, just like a circle. In Sanskrit, the name Tārā is based on the root "tri" (swimming to the other side). Similarly, her Tibetan name sGrol-ma, was formed by adding a feminine suffix to the word sGrol which has the meaning of "crossing a river").[6] Strictly speaking, only those deities can be called Tārās to whom the Tārāmantra: “oṃ tārā tuttāre ture svāhā” is assigned. A translation could be “Om! O Tara! I entreat you, O Tara! O swift one! Hail!”.[7] On top of the double lotus pedestal (viśvapadmā) in front of this bronze Green Tārā, a small gold plaque is attached with the inscription “Tāre taṃ svāhā”, to be translated as “blessed art thou Tārā”.

This sculpture of Śyāmātārā displays the Pāla style of Northeastern India. The earliest Pāla style sculptures have less ornament, but from the 10th century sculptures are heavily bejeweled have more elongated bodies. According to Tibetan tradition, the Pāla school of art strongly influenced the art of Tibet. There are two distinct versions of the Pāla-Tibetan style which appear to have been connected chiefly with the Kadampa monasteries between the eleventh and the fourteenth century. One style developed in the central region and the other in western Tibet.[8] This sculpture is most likely from the central region.

Śyāmātārā is sometimes also called Khadiravaṇītārā, one of the various emanations of Amoghasiddhi, as mentioned in the 5th-century Sādhanamālā (a collection of sādhana texts that contain detailed instructions for rituals). Khadiravaṇī is commonly known as Śyāmātārā because of her green colour.[9] The Sādhana text does not mention any particular sitting position (āsana). Here Śyāmātārā is sitting on the viśvapadmā in the lalitāsana position, with her pendant leg resting on an extended lotus blossom. Her left hand and arm in the Kartarīmukha- or Mayūrapose [10] while holding the stalk of the blue lotus. An interesting posture that has been debated among scholars and that in Śyāmātārā sculptures often is confused with vitarkamudrā. The little finger of the hand is broken off.

Śyāmātārā is clad in a dhotī secured with a belt inlaid with a stone and a sash draped over her right arm, adorned in various jewelry and flanked by Utpala lotus blossoms at her shoulders. The utpalas and her right hand in varadamudrā follow the typical iconographical format of the Indian Goddess as described above. Śyāmātārā’s forehead diplays the ūrṇā inlaid with a stone surmounted by a foliate crown. The description of Śyāmātārā as given in the Sādhanamālā texts is largely followed with this image, except for the tiara. The Sādhanamālā mentions an image of Amoghasiddhi on her crown.

The padmāsana (lotus-throne) is decorated with the double lotus petals at the front, but is flat at the back and finished with an inscribed pūrṇa-ghaṭa (“full vessel”) motif. The decoration with lotus petals only at the front of the padmāsana, suggests a sculpture of early date and corresponds to Pāla style sculptures. The inscribed floral motifs with lotuses on the flat back of the padmāsana also shows the Pāla influence. The vessel (kumbha) in the pūrṇa-ghaṭa motif is filled with water and lotus stalks; with flowers as a symbol of abundance and the source of life or wealth and good fortune. Below the pūrṇa-ghaṭa motif on the padmāsana base is an inscription in Tibetan which reads: རྗེ་བཙུན་མ་ པགས་མ་ མ་ སྒོལ་ མ་སྦྱིན་ སྦྱིན་བ་ ཨི་ བདག་ བོ་ དྲུ་ ཅེན་ བློ་ གྲས་ དཔལ་གྱིས་ གྱིས་ ཙེ་ དད་ བསོད་ནམས་དཔལ་ བྱོར་ རྒྱས་པར་མཛད་ དུ་ གསལ་ Transcription: rje btsun ma ‘p’ags ma sg(r)ol ma sbyin ba ‘i bdag bo dru c’en blo gras dpal gyis ts’e dad bsod nams dpal ‘byor rgyas par mdzad du gsol. Translation: O, exalted, noble Tārā, by Drun-c'en Blo.gras.dpal, the bestower, (You) are requested to bring the thriving of life(s) and merit, splendour and wealth.[11] The inscription mentions the donor of this sculpture (Drun-c'en Blo.gras.dpal), who may also have been the client for its manufacture. In Buddhism donating a sculpture or giving (dāna) in general, is the practice of cultivating generosity as described in for instance the Dharma-saṃgraha, an extensive glossary of Buddhist technical terms in Sanskrit (e.g., ṣaṣ-pāramitā) [12] attributed to Nāgārjuna (2nd century A.D.). Dāna represents the first of the “six perfections” (ṣaṭpāramitā) and refers to the “three kinds of gifts” viz.: dharma-dāna (the gift of the dharma); āmiṣa-dāna (the gift of material things) and maitrī-dāna (the gift of friendliness).[13]

The seal of the padmāsana base is missing.

1 R.E. Fisher, Buddhist Art and Architecture, Thames and Hudson, 1993, p. 77 2 S. Huntington and J. Huntington, Leaves from the Bodhi Tree: The Art of Pala India and Its International Legacy. Dayton, Ohio: The Dayton Art Institute in association with the University of Washington Press, 1989, p. 318. 3 L.A. Waddell, 'The Buddhist Pictorial Wheel of Life', Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. 61, 1892, p. 135 4 M. Ghosh, Development of Buddhist Iconography in Eastern India: A Study of Tārā, Prajňās of Five Tathāgatas and Bhŗikuţi, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd,. 1980 , p. 14 5 U. Singh, History of Ancient and Early Medieval India, From the Stone Age to the 12th Century, Pearson Education Press, 2009, p. 438 6 Translation by R.H. Poelmeijer, Tibetologist, Leiden University, The Netherlands. 7 The Indian Buddhist Iconography: Mainly Based on the Sādhanamālā and Cognate Tantric Texts of Rituals, B. Bhattacharyya, Calcutta 1958, p. 306 8 B.N. Gosamy and A.L. Dahmen-Dallapiccola, An early document of Indian art: the Citralakṣaṇa of Nagnajit, Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 2020, p. 114 9 Iconography of Buddhist and Brahmanical Sculptures in the Dacca Museum, Nalini Kanta Bhattasali, 1920: p.56 10 Kartarīmukha is quoted by T. A. Gopinatha Rao in Hindu Iconography (1914, p. xxxi), where it is stated that this posture is used for holding attributes such as the conch and discus. There exists some confusion of the Kartarīmukha- and Mayūrapose. The Abhinaya Darpaṇa describes the same posture as the Mayūrapose where the third finger of the Kartarī-mukha hand is joined to the thumb, the other fingers extended (A. Coomaraswamy, The Mirror of Gesture, Abhinaya Darpaṇa of Nandikeshvara, 1917 Harvard University Press, p. 29) 11 Translation by R.H. Poelmeijer, Tibetologist, Leiden University, The Netherlands. 12 K. Kasawara, The Dharma-Samgraha, an ancient collection of Buddhist Technical Terms, Clarendon Press Oxford 1885: section 17 13 Ibid. section 105

H 21 cm

The little finger of the left hand is broken off and missing. The seal of the padmāsana base is missing. The jewels are later replacements, one jewel in the crown is missing. She probably held lotus flowers in her hands which are broken off and missing. Traces of the old lacquer and gilt surface remaining but mostly worn off. Old collection number (49) witten on inside in white.

€ 20.000,00
€ 30.000,00

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