A LARGE SILVER AND COPPER-INLAID BRONZE FIGURE OF SHAKYAMUNI BUDDHA CENTRAL TIBET, 13TH – 14TH CENTURY
- 43.4 cm, 17 in.
Himalayan Art Resources item no. 68455
The Sculptural Heritage of Tibet: Buddhist Art in the Nyingjei Lam Collection, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, October-December 1999.
Arte Buddhista Tibetana: Dei e Demoni dell' Himalaya, Palazzo Bricherasio, Turin, June-September 2004.
Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2005-2017, on loan.
Casting the Divine. Sculptures of the Nyingjei Lam Collection, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2012-2013.
Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2016-2017.
Franco Ricca, Arte Buddhista Tibetana: Dei e Demoni dell' Himalaya, Turin, 2004, fig. 42.
The current work, executed in a richly patinated bronze and sharply contrasted by the application of cold gold and polychromy to the face, neck and hair, demonstrates the stylistic transition between the early Eastern Indian sculptural traditions and that of the Newari aesthetic tradition so prevalent in the following two centuries.
The body of the Buddha projects a sense of grandeur and vitality. The proportions of the figure are such that the head is almost the same size as the torso, the effect of which draws the eyes to the serene, painted face. The broad torso is wrapped in a diaphanous, patchwork sanghati, the outer hem of which is draped in an unconventional fashion down the proper left arm, and the lower hem which pools gracefully on the platform base between the knees.
The use of cold gold and polychromy for the head (and often the chest, hands and feet) is a uniquely Tibetan convention. In order to generate merit, patrons and devotees would traditionally donate gold dust or powder to their local monastery, for the lustration of the devotional sculptures, such as in the current work. It is not uncommon for devotional objects such as these to have several generations of lustrated layers, and this practice continues today.
Compare the almond-shaped eyes and eyebrows of the current work to a painted head of the Buddha in a mural at the Yumchenmo sanctuary of Shalu Monastery in Central Tibet, illustrated in Michael Henss, The Cultural Monuments of Tibet, Munich, 2014, Vol. II, p.614, pl. 888 (fig. 1).