Importante statuette de Vairocana en bronze doré Dynastie Ming, XVE siècle
Koller Zuerich, 11th November 1988, lot 1A.
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The crown is of typical fifteenth century design with the patterned fillet decorated with a triple jewel setting at the centre in the classic early Ming format of square-cut gem flanked by two pear-cut, and with the five leaf jewelled diadem following the design seen on Yongle and Xuande examples, cf. the crowns of the Speelman pair of Xuande dancing bodhisattvas, sold Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 7th October 2006, lot 805. The fall of cloth is well observed in the Buddha’s robe, taught over the knees and shoulder but hanging in loose folds across the chest, lower leg and ankle, and spreading out over the upper surface of the pedestal, as in many works of the period. But the singular defining feature that places the sculpture firmly in the fifteenth century, and relating the robe to the Yongle period origins of the style, is the way the cloth forms a broad flattened fold falling from the proper left shoulder. This distinctive feature is common on early Ming works such as the Speelman Yongle enthroned Buddha, ibid., lot 808, but does not occur later in the dynasty.
The imperial bronzes of the Yongle and Xuande period thus clearly influenced the artist who created this large and important sculpture, and continued to impact on sculpture of the Zhengtong (1436-1449) and Jingtai (1450-1457) periods. However, Chenghua (1464-1487) Buddhist sculpture tends to be mannered in comparison. Given the evident confidence of the sculptor of this crowned Vairocana Buddha, and his inherent knowledge of the classic early Ming motifs and sculptural proportion, it may be assumed that it dates to no later than the mid-fifteenth century. The well-documented bestowal of gilt bronzes upon Tibetan hierarchs during the Yongle reign was significantly reduced during the Xuande period and hardly recorded thereafter. This majestic image of Vairocana is thus likely to have been a commission for a local Chinese temple setting during the Zhengtong or Jingtai period, rather than destined for a Tibetan monastery collection.