PROPERTY FROM THE NYINGJEI LAM COLLECTION SOLD FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE NYINGJEI LAM CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
From the inscription on the verso, the lama depicted is Chöjé Senggé. There are two inscriptions on the verso of the bronze, the upper inscription in the Lantsa script. The lower Tibetan inscription reads:
This deed was carried out to commemorate Chöjé Senggé’s passing. The statue was made by Gyalgupa.
It is possible that this refers to the thirteenth abbot of Katok Monastery in Eastern Tibet, the Nyingma lama Chöjé Jangchub Senggé (ca. 1372-1439). The commemorative portraiture, the presence of the incised root guru at heart centre, the fine double inscriptions, and the elaborate chasing of the bronze indicating richly embroidered silk robes all support the identification of this figure as a high lama.
Based on the date of Chöjé Jangchub Senggé's death, the presumption that a portrait would have been executed by an artist who knew the deceased well enough to recreate his countenance, as well as the dedicatory information gleaned from the inscription, the bronze can reasonably be dated to the mid-fifteenth century. The presence of Chöjé Senggé's sumptuous robes also support this dating, as the representation of these kinds of Chinese-style embroidered textiles in bronzes and thangkas became more prevalent during the fifteenth century, reflecting Tibet's deepening relationship with the late Yuan and early Ming imperial courts.
The current work bears striking similarity to two circa sixteenth century bronze figures depicting a lama identified by inscription as Senggé Gyaltsen, published in Donald Dinwiddie, ed., Portraits of the Masters: Bronze Sculptures of the Tibetan Buddhist Lineages, Chicago, pp. 342-346, pls 101 and 102, and sold at Bonhams New York, 14th March 2017, lots 3283 and 3284.
All three figures wear a distinctive inner robe with a square flap with a medallion at their chest, of which Dinwiddie suggests an association with the Vinaya lineage introduced into Tibet by the Kashmiri master Shakyashribhadra. Further, all three figures bear inscriptions in both the Lantsa and Tibetan scripts, and also wear similar robes wonderfully chased with foliate motifs and Lantsa seed syllables. The hands of all three figures are precisely folded in dhyanamudra, and both the current work and pl. 101 wear a mala or rosary on the left wrist. The current work and pl. 102 also have a similar receding hairline, which is also slightly visible under the cap of the figure in pl. 101. The relationship between the three figures is powerfully compelling, and as all three figures have "Senggé" in their names, it is possible that all three works depict the same glorious figure.
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