Lot 924
  • 924

A GILT COPPER FIGURE OF INDRA WITH INSET SEMI-PRECIOUS STONES AND TURQUOISE BLUE PASTE NEPAL, 14TH CENTURY |

Estimate
200,000 - 300,000 USD
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Description

  • Height 10 in. (25.4 cm.) 
the god Indra, distinguished by the characteristic horizontal mark on the forehead indicating a third eye, wearing a diaphanous dhoti and a sash over the legs, with gem-set armbands, necklace and upavita, lotus-form earrings and the god’s distinctive crown inset with garnets and turquoise blue paste, the god seated in elegant maharajalilasana with right arm resting on the raised right thigh, the right hand in vitarka mudra and the left supporting his weight behind and holding Indra’s emblem the vajra thunderbolt Himalayan Art Resources item no. 13621.

Provenance

Gifted to Alastair and Anne Aberdeen, 6th Marquess and Marchioness of Aberdeen, circa 1990. 
The Collection of Adam Stainton.

Catalogue Note

The figure is cast in copper, fire gilded and adorned with the distinctive combination of garnet and turquoise coloured settings typical of Kathmandu Valley metal sculpture. Indra’s characteristic seated position, asana, evoking luxurious royal ease, embodies the sensuous quality of Nepalese sculpture in one of the most elegant iconographic postures in all Himalayan art. The combination of the maharajalila asana and the tall mitre-like crown are iconographic elements seen only in Nepalese depictions of the god Indra. Compare the asana and crown style of a fifteenth century gilt copper Nepalese Indra from the Duke of Northumberland’s collection, Sotheby’s New York, 17 September, 2014, lot 442, and a thirteenth century example in the Norton Simon Museum, Pratapaditya Pal, Art of the Himalayas and China, New Haven and London, 2003, p. 85, cat. 52. While the posture and the specific crown type remain consistent in all three sculptures, the mudra of the right hand differs in each. Dr Pal explains this as artistic preference with no profound iconographic or theological implications, ibid. Compare the sculptural style and stylistic detail of a Nepalese gilt copper Uma-Maheshvara with inset gems dated 1345, see Ian Alsop, “Five Nepalese Metal Sculptures”, in Artibus Asiae, Ascona, MCMLXXXIV, pp. 207-21, Fig. 3. Indra is worshiped in Nepal by Hindus and Buddhists alike. In the Hindu tradition the god is often referred to by his epithet Sahasraksha ‘The One with a Thousand Eyes’, symbolised by the horizontal mark on his forehead in the form of an eye. In Buddhist mythology Indra is regarded as devaraja, the king of the gods. Indra Jatra, a pageant in honour of the god, takes place in Kathmandu each year in one of the most important religious festivals of the Newar community. 

This Nepalese statue of Indra was in the personal collection of Adam Stainton (1921-1991), a British botanist and renowned collector of Himalayan plants. Under the aegis of George Taylor at the botany department of the British Museum, Stainton joined John Williams and William Sykes on the museum’s 1954 expedition to survey and collect plant samples in the Nepalese Himalayas. He would return to Nepal on subsequent trips funded by his own personal wealth. Stainton published Forests of Nepal in 1972. He sponsored the Japanese expert on Himalayan flora, Hiroshi Hara, to travel to London and work with William T. Stearn and L. H. J. Williams on the British Museum publication An Enumeration of the Flowering Plants of Nepal published in 1978. Stainton collaborated with Oleg Polunin on Flowers of the Himalaya published in 1984. As a legacy of his work in the Himalayas, more than twenty Nepalese plant species now bear Stainton’s name. In later years Stainton gifted the statue of Indra to close family friends, Alastair and Anne Aberdeen, 6th Marquess and Marchioness of Aberdeen.

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