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The Property of a Gentleman

A large copper and silver-inlaid figure of Avalokiteshvara, Eastern India, Pala period, 12th century

Auction Closed

March 21, 04:25 PM GMT


200,000 - 300,000 USD

Lot Details


A large copper and silver-inlaid figure of Avalokiteshvara

Eastern India, Pala period, 12th century

東印度 帕拉王朝 十二世紀 銅錯銀銅嵌寶觀音像

Himalayan Art Resources item no. 13834.


Height 6¼ in., 15.9 cm

French Private Collection since the 1970s.

Acquired in Toulouse, 2002.

This supremely elegant eastern Indian Pala bronze depicts the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara seated in the regal posture of lalitasana with his right foot resting on a lotus flower. The sculpture is distinguished by the extensive silver and copper inlay to eyes and lips, jewelry and textile patterns, cf. the silver eyes and urna, copper inlaid lower lip, silver necklace and silver and copper inlaid armbands with the Pala bronze Manjushri sold in these rooms, 24th March 2011, lot 26, and now on long-term loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Avalokiteshvara has further copper and silver decoration on the crown panels and the jewel finial (cintamani) above the chignon (jatamukuta), the rosettes on the lower garment and the sash across the torso. Both the Avalokiteshvara and the Manjushri exhibit the rare feature of a band along the lower rim of their lotus pedestals representing the cosmic ocean from which the lotus flower emerges. In another rare feature, the Avalokiteshvara is cast separately from the copper pedestal, the rich color of the red copper contrasting with and highlighting the jewel-like copper alloy figure of the deity. This decorative sculptural device was developed in the Pala period, cf. a silver Manjushri standing on a separately cast gilt-copper base in the Cleveland Museum of Art, see David Weldon and Jane Casey Singer, The Sculptural Heritage of Tibet: Buddhist Art in the Nyingjei Lam Collection, London, 1999, pp 22-23, figs 15 and 16. Like the silver figure, the Avalokiteshvara is inset with gems as well as metal inlay, with green stones in the lotus flowers and crown ties. Further similarities with the Cleveland statue include the inlaid necklace pendants, the sacred thread (upavita) with a copper inlaid knot at the chest, and the close resemblance of the divine, otherworldly expression in the eyes and lips. The Cleveland Museum of Art suggests a twelfth century date for the silver Manjushri and an eastern Indian provenance of Bengal, A similar date and provenance may be attributed to the Avalokiteshvara, cf. detail and sculptural style of a late eleventh or early twelfth century black stone stele of Avalokiteshvara from West Dinajpur District, Bengal, see Susan L. Huntington, The Pāla-Sena Schools of Sculpture, Leiden, 1984, pl. 237.


This exquisite figure of Avalokiteshvara represents the epitome of the eastern Indian Pala period sculptural tradition that had lasting influence on the art of Tibet. And it must have been bronzes such as this — many of which found their way to Tibet in medieval times — that inspired the revival of the Pala aesthetic in the eighteenth century, where Chinese and Tibetan Pala style bronzes are often decorated with the same copper and silver textile design.

本像來自東印度帕拉,刻劃觀世音菩薩作半跏坐姿,右足置於蓮花之上,雙目、嘴唇、瓔珞及衣袍錯銀銅可比較一帕拉銅文殊菩薩像作例,售於紐約蘇富比2011年3月24日,編號26,現時長期借展於紐約大都會藝術博物館。本像紅銅底座與佛像分開鑄造,相映之下,佛像更顯華麗。這種裝飾手法源自帕拉時期,相近作例可參考一尊銀文殊菩薩像,銅鎏金底座,現藏於克里夫蘭藝術博物館,參考David Weldon 和 Jane Casey Singer,《The Sculptural Heritage of Tibet: Buddhist Art in the Nyingjei Lam Collection》,倫敦,1999 年,頁22-23,圖15、16。克里夫蘭藝術博物館認爲該像製於十二世紀東印度孟加拉。本像相信也是製於相近時期和地點。東印度帕拉時期造像傳統對西藏藝術影響深遠,本像正是帕拉佛學的卓越佳作,珍稀難得。