A FINE AND RARE GILT-BRONZE SEATED MAITREYA MARK AND PERIOD OF YONGLE
- 21 cm., 8 1/4 in.
Maitreya is visualised in this manifestation as a princely bodhisattva residing in Tushita heaven. Hands are held in the teaching posture and hold stems of flowers from the naga-puspa, the tree that it is believed Maitreya will sit beneath for his teachings on earth in a future aeon. The vessel that rests on the flower head at his right shoulder is said to signify his future reincarnation as a Brahman, see Christian Luczanits in Gandhara: The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan, Mainz, 2009, p. 250.
The worship of Maitreya is a cult of hope for an enlightened Buddhist age of the future. Another Yongle gilt bronze, formerly in the Speelman Collection, shows Maitreya in his manifestation of future Buddha dressed in a simple sanghati and standing with hands in abhaya and varada mudra, see Sotheby's Hong Kong, 7th October 2006, lot 803. At least three other Yongle statues are known representing Maitreya as a regal bodhisattva, evidence of the popularity of the cult during this period, see Ulrich von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Hong Kong, 2001, vol. II, pl. 343F: The Chang Foundation, Buddhist Images in Gilt Metal, Taipei, 1993, cat. 22: Ulrich von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong 1981, 147E (later restored without a vase and now in the Aschmann collection).
The exotic naga-puspa leaves falling from the stems at the shoulders of the sculptures identify the images with Maitreya and are quite distinct from the lotus or other foliage depicted on Yongle statues of different iconography. This fine example remains in excellent condition retaining its undisturbed consecration plate beneath engraved with a visvavajra. The colour of the gilding is exceptional and the modelling exemplary throughout.