Lot 3144
  • 3144

AN EXTREMELY RARE LARGE GILT-BRONZE FIGURE DEPICTING A CHITIPATI OR KINKARA TIBET OR HIMALAYAS, 17TH – 18TH CENTURY

Estimate
8,000,000 - 10,000,000 HKD
Sold
9,100,000 HKD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Gilt-bronze
standing in ardhaparyankasana with the right knee bent and raised, the left knee turned outward in dancing posture, the right arm raised and the left arm akimbo, the pointed skull with bone fissures, the two large eye sockets vacant, with fierce grimace and fangs bared, wearing a heavy necklace and decorative breastplate with cloud motif, with protruding ribs and spine, with a short pleated dhoti secured at the waist, standing atop an associated stepped rectangular base adorned with a vishvavajraHimalayan Art Resources item no. 13446

Exhibited

Demonic Divine, Rubin Museum of Art, New York, 2004.

Literature

Rob Linrothe and Jeff Watt, Demonic Divine, New York, 2004, pp. 134-135, cat. no. 14.

Catalogue Note

Highly unusual in its powerful scale, electrifying in its energy and movement, this large and lithe bronze figure depicts a dancing Chitipati or kinkara. Charnal ground figures including kinkara (skeleton) and Chitipati (Lord of the Funeral Pyre), are commonly depicted in Vajrayana Buddhist imagery and ritual as the fierce protectors of tantric practitioners, especially in thangkas. However, this is the only large freestanding sculpture of this form recorded in any private or museum collection.

For a representation of the Chitipati, see a 15th century thangka in the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, illustrated in Rob Linrothe and Jeff Watt, loc.cit., pp. 126-127, cat. no. 10 . See also a detail on an 18th century thangka of Vajrayogini, sold in our Paris rooms, 10th June 2014, lot 69. These images demonstrate how the current figure may originally have appeared as a pair, depicted dancing alongside each other in a temple or other ritual setting.

In the Tantric context, the charnal ground is both a literal and metaphorical arena for Buddhist practice—a potent reminder of the impermanence of life; the mental constructs of aversion and impurity; and the craving for a human body and future rebirths. There are subtle iconographical differences between the kinkara and Chitipati. The kinkara is depicted in a dancing posture, with a prominent and pointed skull with curvilinear bone fissures; hollow eye sockets; the gaping mouth with teeth bared and vicious fangs. A decorative necklace and breastplate or textile adorns the upper body, and a short dhoti adorns the lower body. Further decorative bone fissures are visible at the back of the skull, the wrist, knees and ankles. The skeletal torso reveals the bony rib cage at the front, and the ribs with protruding spinal column at the back. The iconography of the Chitipati is almost identical, however, the kinkara has two eye sockets and a human-like body, with flesh-covered hands and feet and delicately articulated nails.

Chitipati are associated with the eight great charnel grounds (astamahasmashana) of the Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini mandalas, and invoked as the skeletal protectors of Tantric practitioners. Chitipati are typically depicted completely denuded of flesh, with a third eye, wearing a five-leaf or five-skull crown, holding kinkara-danda (skeleton clubs) or other ritual implements aloft, and with knees intertwined. The ghouls and spirits of the charnal ground, including the kinkara, are governed by the Chitipati.   

It has been speculated in the past that this sculpture may have been used to support the oversized Tibetan ritual long horn known as dungchen. Found throughout the greater Tibetan Buddhist cultural region, dungchen are long, telescoping bronze or mixed metal trumpets often more than three meters in length, used in a ritual context and always played in pairs. The wide ends of the dungchen typically rest on mounted stands, and are held aloft by a handheld mount, or rested on the ground. In the current example, it is possible that a curved mount for the wide end of a dungchen would have fit into the figure’s raised proper right palm, as it also would in that of its pair. For further discussion, see Linrothe and Watt, Demonic Divine: Himalayan Art and Beyond, New York, 2004, p. 134, cat. no. 14.

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