METALWORK AND CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION
As in Tibet, the cult of Tara was clearly popular at the Yongle court and at least nine gilt bronze Taras of the period remain: one formerly in the Usher P. Coolidge collection, published in Heather Karmay, Early Sino-Tibetan Art, Warminster, 1975, pl. 56; one in the Art Institute of Chicago, illustrated in Ulrich von Shroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, vol. 2, Hong Kong, 2001, pl. 144D; one in the Chang Foundation, published in Buddhist Images in Gilt Metal, Taipei, 1993, pl. 48; two included in the exhibition On the Path to Enlightenment. The Berti Aschmann Foundation of Tibetan Art at the Museum Rietberg Zurich, Rietberg Museum, Zurich, 1995, cat. nos 92-93; two in Tibetan monastery collections, illustrated in Ulrich von Shroeder, op. cit., pls 536C-6F; one from the Jules Speelman collection, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 7th October 2006, lot 806; and the present figure. As testimony to the variety and originality found in Yongle sculpture, these nine Taras are all markedly different from one another while remaining faithful to common stylistic requirements of the Yongle ateliers. Some are aristocratic in appearance like the present example: the larger of the two in the Aschmann collection is more austere, while the Tara formerly in the Coolidge collection has a charming rounded figure. All, however, are finished and gilded to perfection, adorned with the Yongle hallmark jewellery and broad-petalled lotus pedestals typical of larger gilt bronze figures such as the present piece.
This sculpture has an elegance and delicacy as befits the sensuous and youthful female form of the goddess. Her hands are held in gentle and expressive gestures of charity and reassurance; attributes which are reinforced through the remnants of pigment, most notably in her eyes. The compassion she is said to have for all sentient beings is expressed in the sublime countenance of this sophisticated Yongle bronze.
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