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The stylistic origin of Yongle gilt bronzes can be traced to the Yuan dynasty, when the court espoused Tibetan Buddhism. Early fourteenth century woodblocks made for the monastery of Yangshen Yuan, Hangzhou, are evidence of a new style appearing in Chinese Buddhist art, see Heather Karmay, Early Sino-Tibetan Art, Warminster, 1975, pp. 47-50, pls. 26, 29 and 30. The gently smiling faces, full rounded figures and tiered thrones in these woodblock prints reflect the Newar styles favoured in Tibet, and introduced into China by Nepalese artists.
This elegant bronze figure of a Bodhisattva was originally acquired in 1956 from the sale of the collection of André Schoeller at Hôtel Drouot, Paris, together with the four Japanese tea bowls chawan offered in this sale, lots 103 to 106. While the identity of the figure is not entirely clear, the positioning of the hands indicates that it may represent Manjushri. The figure's right hand may have held a sword while the other hand in the lowered position may have held a book, compare a very similar figure of Manjushri in the collection of the British Museum, London, illustrated in Ulrich von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, pp. 516-517, fig. 144G.
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