ART & DEVOTION
The Splendour and Worship of Asian Sculpture
ART & DEVOTION
The Splendour and Worship of Asian Sculpture descriptions by
FOREWORD Marcel Nies opened a gallery specialising in art from Southeast Asia, India and the Himalaya regions in 1994 in Antwerp. He has been trading since 1975 and built an internationally recognised expertise in Asian art, supporting numerous vetting committees worldwide. Apart from the annual exhibitions held at the gallery, Marcel Nies Oriental Art has taken part in TEFAF Maastricht for over 30 years. Mr. Nies has supplied works of art to important private collections and museums, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst in Cologne, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Rietberg Museum in Zürich, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the Barbier-Mueller Museum in Dallas, the Asian Civilization Museum in Singapore, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Eva Puelinckx joined the gallery in 1997. She graduated as a MA in the History of Art and Archaeology at the University in Leuven specialising in Islamology and Philosophy, followed by a postgraduate in Islamology at the University ULB in Brussels. Previous to working at Marcel Nies Oriental Art, she gained vast experience in guiding in Syria and Jordan and has worked for various art dealers. Whilst working at the gallery, she took part in Islamic and Southeast Asian art vetting committees as a valued assistant, including at TEFAF Maastricht, BRAFA and Pan Amsterdam. Since 1997 she has been a highly esteemed member of our team providing in depth knowledge of Asian art and has been in charge of organising our annual exhibitions at TEFAF and Antwerp. Elena Nies works as an independent art researcher and joined our forces earlier this year. She obtained a BA in the History of Art at UGent and a MA in Northern Renaissance Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art with focus on European medieval sculpture. She has volunteered at the Museum Mayer van den Bergh, worked with several sculpture dealers in the UK and with Sotheby’s London, where she further developed her specialisation in sculpture. We hereby present our catalogue Art & Devotion: The Splendour and Worship of Asian Sculpture, descriptions written by Elena Nies and edited by all team members.
INTRODUCTION Art & Devotion encapsulates the essence of Asian religious sculpture. The sacred sculptures included in this catalogue demonstrate how artists shaped abstract ideas and visualised the heavenly beauty of the divinities central to their community. The artworks once lay at the centre of devotional rituals performed privately in a domestic setting or more publicly in temples. The divine figures in their human-like form intend to protect, give hope, and function as tools of meditation to attain an altered state of consciousness. Apart from being significant objects of worship in early Asian societies, they have an intrinsic artistic value. Artists expressed their imagination and skill most in devotional art to highlight the spiritual energy radiating from their creations. By approaching the sculptures in a comprehensive way, considering their economic, political and religious contexts, whilst focussing on the objectâ€™s stylistic features, materiality and iconography, this catalogue intends to provide in-depth descriptions of rare works of art. We are proud to present an exclusive selection of important sculptures from the Himalayas, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Indonesia from the 8th until the 15th century. Included artworks have extensive provenance, having been part of old established collections. The sculptures are each selected for their expressive qualities and artistic virtuosity, revealing the rich diversity of Asian devotional art. All works are accompanied by comprehensive documentation and an authenticity guarantee.
VISHNU ATTENDED BY GADADEVI AND CHAKRAPURUSHA India, Kashmir, Second half 8th century Green chlorite – height: 25cm This green chlorite miniature group represents the Hindu god of destruction, Vishnu, with two attendants. The left attendant portrays Gadadevi and the right Chakrapurusha - both figures are personified attributes associated with Vishnu. The god of destruction is resting his outer hands on the attendants’ heads, and stands in a subtle tribhanga pose, leaning on his right foot. The garland encircling Vishnu’s body is connected to a small female figure, the earth goddess Prithvi, positioned in between his feet. The fine material resembles bronze, but is, in fact, a mineral - allowing the artist to carve with great sensitivity and sharp detail. Amongst other aspects, the elaborate three-leafed crown topped by an open lotus flower, the delicate braids, and the crisp delineated facial features typical for early Kashmiri sculptures demonstrate the statue’s outstanding quality. Another fascinating aspect is the stylistic influence from the Gupta period revealed in the finely pleated and seemingly sheer garments exposing Vishnu’s sensitively carved body. The abstract reverse of the group contrasts with the many details described above and suggests that the sculpture was intended to be seen frontally. The cult of Vishnu was especially prevalent during the reign of Lalitaditya (724-760AD.) who commissioned the building of many Vaishnava temples.1 Whilst this iconography of Vishnu is widely spread in India, only a handful of 8th century green chlorite Kashmiri sculptures remain. John Siudmak, scholar and dealer in Asian art, studied these in his publication The Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Ancient Kashmir and its Influences and describes a headless Vishnu sculpture much resembling the present with similar measurements and standing on a rectangular throne, dating it circa 750AD. (fig.1).2 Its firm pose and folding of the dhoti is especially akin; the manner in which the sacred cord is placed over his left breast following the line of the pearled belt, the sash draped diagonally across his hips, and the corner of his garment falling high on his right thigh. Even the breakage of the right arm matches, indicating natural damage.3 Some differences can be detected: the style of the necklaces and armbands, and the dagger that is missing in the example discussed by Siudmak. This comparison leads to the possibility that the same workshop produced the two sculptures, but due to a missing inscription we can unfortunately only speculate. All in all, the present group is an important remainder of the Vishnu cult in Kashmir and the almost identical execution of the theme in green chlorite affirms its popularity amongst Hindu devotees from the region.4 Provenance: Private collection, Hong Kong, before late 1990s Collection Mr. Laurent Solomon, Singapore, late 1990s-2020 1 D.P. Leidy, Treasures of Asian Art: The Asia Society’s Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, (Abeville Press, 1994), p.73 2 J. Siudmak, The Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Ancient Kashmir and its Influences, (Leiden: BRILL, 2013), p.384 3 Some differences are noted: the style of the necklaces and armbands, and the dagger that is missing in the example discussed by Siudmak 4 P. Pal and S. Little, A Collecting Odyssey: The Alsdorf Collection of Indian and East Asian Art, (Thames & Hudson, 1977), p.31 Fig. 1: Green chlorite Vishnu and attendants group – 26cm. high, Sri Pratap Singh Museum, Srinagar, Kashmir, no. 1860. Photograph courtesy of American Institute of Indian Studies. [https://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/aiis/aiis_query.py?image_id=ar_009700&get_large=yes, lastly visited 12/10/2020]
VISHNU ATTENDED BY GADADEVI AND CHAKRAPURUSHA India, Kashmir, Second half 8th century Green chlorite â€“ height: 25cm 8
VISHNU ATTENDED BY GADADEVI AND CHAKRAPURUSHA India, Kashmir, Second half 8th century Green chlorite â€“ height: 25cm 10
CUNDA Thailand, Srivijaya kingdom, 9th century Bronze – height: 28cm This bronze depicts the goddess Cunda, a Buddhist deity. She is considered an important female bodhisattva, one of the twelve Buddhist divinities who generate mystic power. The goddess sits in lalitasana, the pose of royal ease, on a doubletiered lotus throne, which is placed on a square platform. The deity comes across as queenly and her complex jewellery and heavily decorated crown add to her imposing presence. The throne is sculpted with great care, each petal carefully modelled. Despite her six arms being broken off, the statue demonstrates an unmatched beauty, representative of the sophisticated Srivijaya school. The Cundi Dharani sutra, associated with this divinity, is considered an important mantra teaching that is preached by Buddhas from the past, present, and future in order to guide the devotee to enlightenment. In addition, several early versions of the sutra refer to Cunda as ‘mother of Buddhas’.5 This bronze showcases the deity with a mother-like physique, including a realistic underbelly, wide hips and voluminous breasts, which support the notion of Cunda as a mother figure. As opposed to depictions of other voluptuous female deities, such as Salabanjikha included in this catalogue (p.18-21), this sculpture does not come across as erotic, but more so as maternal. Nevertheless, the naturalistic forms of the body are noteworthy. Srivijaya was a Buddhist kingdom in Sumatra, which expanded from the capital of present-day Palembang (South Sumatra), gaining control of the nearby ports at the end of the 7th century, to finally establish in the peninsular part of Thailand in the 8th century. Because there is a paucity of remaining statues it is difficult to establish stylistic consistencies and developments in Srivijayan art. What we can conclude, however, from studying sculptures like this bronze is that technically skilled artists and workshops produced unique and refined works of art that are richly decorated and naturalistically modelled. Due to the well connectedness of Srivijaya, artworks from this region are noticeably influenced by Indian, Indonesian, and later by Khmer traditions. Provenance: Collection Mr. Khun Surin, Thailand, 1990s - 2001 Collection Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Rodolitz, Thailand/USA, 2001-2019 5 A. Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism: Their History and Iconography, (New York: Dover publications, 1962), p.129 and P. Niyogi, “Cundā - a Popular Buddhist Goddess”, in East and West, vol. 27, no. ¼, December 1977, p.299-300 and P. Granoff, K. Shinohara, Images in Asian Religions: Text and Contexts, (UBC Press, 2010) p. 226-227
CUNDA Thailand, Srivijaya kingdom, 9th century Bronze â€“ height: 28cm 14
CUNDA Thailand, Srivijaya kingdom, 9th century Bronze â€“ height: 28cm 16
SALABANJIKHA India, Madhya Pradesh, Chandella dynasty, 10th - 11th century Red sandstone – height: 95cm This graceful statue portrays a dancing Salabanjikha, a celestial woman sheltered by a canopy of trees. The trees bear mangos and monkeys inspired by local fauna and flora.6 According to the scholar and connoisseur Pratapaditya Pal contemporary Indian literature describes the mango tree as a metaphor for fertility,7 which could be associated with the voluptuous figure of the woman depicted. Two smaller feet of an accompanying figure are seen to the right-hand side of the dancer and a natural breakage and small hole is noted to her left-hand side. These breakages indicate that the goddess was once flanked by two figures. Compared to similar sculptures of Salabanjikha with accompanying figures, it is likely it represented two smaller female dancers or musicians; or a female figure to her right and a monkey to her left-hand side. Chandella sculpture is considered a highpoint of stone carving in medieval India, especially in terms of dynamicity, sensual volume, and detail – as revealed in this statue. Salabanjikha is depicted with idealised hourglass proportions and is sculpted with noticeable artistic skill. The opulent embellishments, swaying jewellery, fine curls framing her face, definite arched eyebrows and wide almond shaped eyes are carved with sharp definition and lively imagination. This sculpture is made from densely structured red sandstone, which is characteristic of the medieval Chandella school. The Chandella dynasty, ruling in central India from the 10th until the 12th century, built many temples and palaces, boosting the sculpture industry to adorn the architectural structures.8 This type of sculpture is a typical decorative motif for the interior and exterior of temples and palaces located in the region of Madhya Pradesh. Based on the article by Anna Slaczka, the curator of Asian Art in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, discussing a similar dancing figure from the Lakshmana Temple in Khajuraho, the broken off square tenon on top of the tree indicates that this sculpture was likely set on the upper part of a tall pillar in a temple hall supporting the ceiling.9 Bearing this in mind, the devotee could only see the sculpture looking up high. It follows that, the striking movement and exquisite detail underline the sophisticated nature of architectural art made by Chandella masters even more so. Due to the impeccable quality, it is likely that this statue was set in a grand construction, such as the famed temples in Khajuraho. This divine Salabanjika increased the holy atmosphere in the building it once adorned, to aid the worshippers in their spiritual growth. Provenance: Private collection, Hong Kong, before 1980 Private collection, Australia, circa 1980-2017 6 S. K. Sullere, Chandella Art, (Aakar Books, 2004), p.23 7 P. Pal, Desire and Devotion: Art from India, Nepal, and Tibet in the John and Berthe Ford Collection, (Philip Wilson Publishers, 2002), p. 53 8 Sullere, p.17 9 A. A. Slaczka, “Temples, Inscription and Misconceptions: Charles-Louis Fabri and the Khajuraho Apsaras”, in The Rijksmuseum bulletin, vol.60, no.3 (2012), pp. 213-233
SALABANJIKHA India, Madhya Pradesh, Chandella dynasty, 10th - 11th century Red sandstone â€“ height: 95cm 20
PARVATI India, Tamil Nadu, Chola dynasty, 11th century Bronze – height: 63cm Parvati is the consort of Shiva and is considered the principal female deity in Hinduism. This sculpture depicts the deity holding a blue lily (nilotpala) in her right hand with fine detail. Parvati’s posture is dynamic from all angles, her left arm is semi-flexed with her hand pointing down - a pose referred to as lolahasta in Sanskrit.10 The goddess’s hip is turning in the direction of her right hand, a stance that is typically held by Parvati, as other female Hindu deities generally sway their hip to the left. In addition, she leans slightly forward due to the weight of her breasts, which is considered a divine stance that has been praised by Indian scholars and writers, including the famous fifth century poet Kalidasa: … leaning a little forwards from the fullness of her breasts, her garment in the hue of the young, morning sun; like a budding vine sauntering, gently curving with round, full-blossoming clusters of flowers;11 The Chola empire was established around 850AD. and ruled until the beginning of the 13th century in South India. It was a time of economic and political growth, artistic refinement, major architectural projects and innovation.12 The stylistic characteristics convincingly attribute the sculpture to the Chola school, early 11th century. The heavenly beauty is classically executed with typical Chola embellishments, including a small wheel-like halo (sirascakra) placed at the back of her head, elaborate arm cuffs, stacked belts, delicate ankle bracelets, a sacred cord draped across her shoulder, a tiered conical crown with foliate designs, and four weighty necklaces adorning her chest. A similar example is located in the Siddharatnesvarar temple, Uttattur - both sculptures’ left arms, in lolahasta, seem disproportionately long and have a similar fitted sheer dhoti, almond-shaped eyes, and a base decorated with large lotus leaves.13 The artist employed the lost wax method and cast the figure solidly in one piece demonstrating its technical intricacy and durable quality. The casting technique supports the bronze’s early dating, as later South Indian statues were chased with fine details and incisions applied after the casting process opposed to this example, where each detail visible has been modelled in advance. Parvati stands on a separately cast lotus pedestal on a square base. The four rings attached to the base were used for metal rods and indicate that the sculpture was carried in procession. The devotional use of the temple sculpture and ritual washings has created a beautiful natural patina. Chola bronzes are considered a highlight in Indian art as exemplified by the present bronze’s technical quality and artistic excellence. The goddess is a pure rendition of Chola sculpture and evokes a strong and primordial energy. Provenance: Collection Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Rodolitz, Thailand/USA, before 1994 Collection Mr. Laurent Solomon, Singapore, 1994-2019 10 D. R. Thapar, Icons in bronze: An Introduction to Indian Metal Images, (New York: Asia Publishing House, 1961), p.27 11 C. Rajan, The Complete Works of Kālidāsa: Poems, (India: Sahitya Akademi, 1997), p.139 12 S.R. Balasubrahmanyam, Middle Chola Temples (A.D.985-1070), (Amsterdam: APA-Oriental Press BV, 1977), p. 1-8, 230-237 and P. Pal, Indian Sculpture: Circa 500 B.C. – A.D. 700, (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986), p.230 13 Balasubrahmanyam, p. 254-256, plate 244
PARVATI India, Tamil Nadu, Chola dynasty, 11th century Bronze â€“ height: 63cm 24
CROWNED HEAD OF AVALOKITESHVARA Cambodia, Angkor, Baphuon, 11th century Polished grey sandstone – height: 28cm This sandstone head of Avalokiteshvara dated to the 11th century and attributed to the Baphuon school is carved with remarkable liveliness. Avalokiteshvara is considered the most important bodhisattva in Buddhism and is venerated for compassion. He is wearing an intricate crown decorated with foliate motifs and pearls tied on the back of his head in a delicate figure-8 knot. Finely sculpted braided hair locks are arranged in a chignon on top of his head capped by a lotus bud and leaves, symbolising purity and enlightenment. The Buddha Amitabha is depicted sitting on the crown and identifies the figure as Avalokiteshvara.14 The Baphuon style is named after the famous temple situated in Angkor, Cambodia, and developed circa 1010-1080AD. In Khmer culture Baphuon sculptures are deemed to be the most elegant, due to the reduction of the figures in size, the pure lines and well-thought-out detailing, as noted in the present sculpture.15 Also typical are the conical shape of the ushnisha hidden under his coiffure and the finely incised facial features, including delineated pupils and visible waterlines drawn outwards to the sides of the bodhisattva’s youthful face.16 The skilfully carved crown and serene facial expression elevate this stone object to a magnificent and highly spiritual work of art. Few authentic high quality Baphuon sculptures reside in Western collections. The present head has an attention-grabbing provenance, as a French family collected the piece in the 1930s/40s. As the sculpture has been acquired at such an early date, it has been well preserved. The head shows a naturally worn patina and few breakages consistent with age, including the face of Buddha Amitabha, small dents in between the softly carved brows and in the crown. The level of artistry, however, did not fade off and captures the grandeur of the Baphuon masters. Provenance: Collected between 1930 and 1940 in the South of France. The piece was mounted on an old base, which is kept with the piece. Collection Mr. Ceresola, France, 1960s - 1998 Collection Marcel Nies Oriental Art, Belgium, 1998 - 1999 Collection Mr. S.A. Tchekhoff, France, 1999 - 2011 Private collection, Belgium, 2011-2020 14 A. Bassoul, Splendour of Khmer Iconography: Ancient Cambodian Art of the 5th to the 13th Centuries in Major World Museums and Private Collections, (Lebanon: Cedar of Lebanon Editions, 2018), p.250 15 H. I. Jessup and T. Zephir, Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia: Millenium of Glory, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1997), p.237 16 J. Boisselier, Asie du Sud-Est, Première Partie, Tome I: Le Cambodge, (Paris: Editions A. Et J. Picard et Cie, 1966), p.272
CROWNED HEAD OF AVALOKITESHVARA Cambodia, Angkor, Baphuon, 11th century Polished grey sandstone â€“ height: 28cm 28
CROWNED HEAD OF AVALOKITESHVARA Cambodia, Angkor, Baphuon, 11th century Polished grey sandstone â€“ height: 28cm 30
JAMBUTI Myanmar, Pagan kingdom, 11th century Bronze – height: 32cm The crowned Buddha Sakyamuni, referred to as Jambuti in Myanmar, stands in an upright pose with his right hand gesturing abhaya mudra, and his left holding the edge of his garment. Buddha is usually modestly adorned, but in later developments of the Buddhist theology, the notion of Jambuti - the bejewelled royal-looking Buddha - emerged; iconography that first became popular in Northeastern India, and later in Myanmar and elsewhere.17 This abundantly adorned Buddha has complex ear ornaments, a tapering flamed kirita crown, and a necklace, which were once inlaid with precious stones. Apart from iconography, further Indian influence is noted. Buddha is wearing a seemingly sheer garment incised with concentric lines. These engravings reflect the oldest Buddha sculptures produced in Amaravati, India (from the 2nd century BC. onwards), which are typified by such linear incisions. The double lotus throne, decorated with a pearled rim and large leaves, and the modelling of the rounded, elegant and well-balanced physical volumes is typical of Pala sculpture. The oval face with full cheeks, incised eyebrows and half-open eyes with outlined pupils is reminiscent of the Gupta period. Although the sculpture largely emulates Indian Pala sculpture, it reveals distinct Burmese elements such as the rippling folds at the bottom of Buddha’s garment, short neck with trivali beauty lines, and broad shoulders. Therefore, it can be concluded that the bronze was cast in the 11th century in Pagan. The 11th century was an interesting time for the kingdom of Pagan, as it supposedly entered a “golden age” when King Anawrahta conquered Trathon in 1057AD. Pagan developed into a cosmopolitan centre for religious and secular study, attracting monks and intellectuals from India, Ceylon, and even the Khmer empire. This societal growth went hand in hand with intriguing architecture and art production, exemplified by the present sculpture. Taking this in the round, it could be argued that an Indian native cast this crowned Buddha, which would clarify the obvious Pala traits. It has proven to be difficult to find bronze sculptures with equal levels of precision and the mix of Burmese and Pala features. The scholar Gordon H. Luce published one comparable Burmese bronze with the same stance, mudra, and crown in Old Burma – Early Pagan, plate 433a.18 Another rare bronze seated Buddha touching the earth is included in this key research work and is stylistically close to the present bronze.19 Interestingly, Luce’s three-volume publication features a greater number of wooden Jambuti sculptures, which illustrates the rarity of the bronze material used for this particular iconography in Myanmar .20 The bronze is cast solidly, indicating technical intricacy. The throne, adorned with large lotus leaves is cast separately and is contemporary to the figure. The smooth and naturally aged patina has a beautiful green hue, adding to the aesthetic value of the sculpture. This crowned Buddha represents an important historic time in Myanmar - when cultural influx from neighbouring regions was omnipresent. It shows how Buddhist sculpture evolved throughout the ages to accommodate the needs and taste of the devotee. Provenance: Collection Mr. Praku Knanumsommanajara, Thailand, 1960s-1970s Private collection, Thailand Collection Mr. Worawit Siriwanichkul, Thailand, 2019 17 M. Lerner, S. Kossak, The Lotus Transcendent: Indian and Southeast Asian Art from the Samuel Eilenberg Collection, (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991), p.127 18 G. H. Luce, Old Burma - Early Pagan, (J. J. Augustin, 1969), plate 433a 19 Luce, plate 439a and 439b 20 Referred to as bodhisattva kings. See: Luce, plates 421-422
JAMBUTI Myanmar, Pagan kingdom, 11th century Bronze â€“ height: 32cm 34
MANJUSRI India, Bihar, Pala dynasty, 11th century Basalt – height: 49cm Manjusri, a Buddhist deity associated with prajna (insight, wisdom), is one of the most important bodhisattvas in Mahayana literature. The deity has been mentioned in ancient texts and his earliest depictions go back to the 6th century.21 He is commonly portrayed sitting on a lion, as seen in the present stele. A nilotpala is wrapped around his left arm and holds a manuscript containing the prajnaparamita writings – this is Manjursi’s emblematic attribute.22 Five cosmic Buddhas sculpted in high relief are depicted above Manjusri and assist him in the transmission of his knowledge. Yamantaka, the destroyer of death, and Manjusri’s acolyte Sudhanakuma, holding a book under his left arm, sit on lotus thrones and flank the bodhisattva.23 Two smaller scale figures are depicted below Manjusri’s companions and could be identified as Kesini and Upakesini. The stele includes a faintly carved architectural structure framing the bodhisattva. The Pala dynasty produced some of the finest carvings in Eastern India. The elongated elegant volumes, as well as the sharply carved and incised facial features are classic 11th-12th century Pala features. Furthermore, Manjusri is abundantly adorned with pearled upper armbands, bracelets, a weighty necklace, and a characteristic three-leafed tiara decorating his Sikhandaka coiffure.24 The bodhisattva is wearing a sheer dhoti incised with floral geometric motifs and stacked decorated belts. The sacred cord, draped over his left shoulder, falls naturally into his lap. This iconography was well spread in Bihar in the 11th century and appears in illuminated manuscripts and painting as well as in sculpture, indicating the devotional importance of Manjusri in the Mahayana Buddhist cult in India. In terms of function, the stone relief was probably attached to a back slab adorning a sacred monument or temple. Its pointed features suggest that it was set in a niche. Provenance: Collection Mr. Hume Shawcross, UK 21 D. P. Leidy, The Art of Buddhism: An Introduction to Its History & Meaning, (Shambhala, 2009), p. 134 22 The Sanskrit word Prajnaparamita means “the Perfection of (Transcendent) Wisdom". The Prajnaparamita is composed of a collection of sutras, and was conceived circa first century BCE. See: J. F. Lewis, W. G. Travis, Religious Traditions of the World, (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1999), p.253 23 R. N. Linrothe, Ruthless Compassion: Wrathful Deities in Early Indo-Tibetan Esoteric Buddhist Art, (Chicago: Serindia Publication, Inc. 1999), p.75-80 24 This hair style consists of three-looped locks with loose curls falling down to the figure’s shoulders. See: T. E. Donaldson, Iconography of the Buddhist Sculpture of Orissa: Text, (Abhinav Publications, 2001) p.164
MANJUSRI India, Bihar, Pala dynasty, 11th century Basalt â€“ height: 49cm 38
KRODHA-VIGHNANTAKA Indonesia, Java , 11th century Bronze – height: 13,4cm Krodha-Vighnantaka is an esoteric Buddhist deity from the Mahayana cult and is depicted here crushing two demons, Maheshvara and his consort, who engaged in a sexual act. This wrathful deity is known as the destructor of obstacles and helps worshippers overcome hindrances on their path to enlightenment. He is also an incarnation of Vajrapani, who is a personification of Buddha defeating the demon Mara.25 Krodha holds a vajra and ghanta in his hands and is portrayed with a fearsome grimace, bulging eyes and fangs exposed from his mouth. This dynamic figure stands in the pratyalidha pose, evoking a sense of controlled movement and velocity, tramping Maheshvara’s face with his left foot and leaning on his right leg stepping onto the chest of his female consort. The entire scene is depicted on a lotus cushion. Based on stylistic study, this sculpture can be dated to the 11th century.26 A handful of similar sculptures of tantric deities survive, including one in the Museum Sejarah Jakarta in Indonesia and another in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.27 In comparison, the present sculpture radiates a unique powerful energy and is unsurpassed in its technical intricacy and artistic excellence. The delicate facial features, elegant adornments, and the limp bodies of the equally detailed demons are cast with notable skill. The sculpture contains intricate elements that are not often seen in sculptures of a similar size, such as the shawl wrapped around Krodha’s waist tied in several knots with swallow tail endings, or the sacred cord draped across Krodha’s body which naturally follows his movement. The earliest surviving images of Krodha-Vighnantaka portray the deity as a subordinate attendant to a more important bodhisattva. From around the 8th century onwards an increasing number of independent images of Krodha-Vighnantaka started to appear, suggesting that the cult of this tantric deity became increasingly important in the devotional lives of Mahayana Buddhists.28 Tantric art developed in Southeast Asia as a way of accelerating one’s path to enlightenment, which requires intense training and meditation skills. The teachings of esoteric Buddhism were available to followers only and so it was a mysterious and exclusive way of practicing Buddhism. Small-scale sculptures like the present were commissioned by members to use for personal devotion in the home. Due to the object’s exceptional quality it is likely that it belonged to a noble individual. Adding to the work’s importance is its established provenance. The sculpture was acquired by Carolyn Oei (born in 1916), daughter of Laura Ping-Nio, who was considered the best maker of herbal medicine in Indonesia and regarded as a key figure in the national industry of Java. Carolyn, working with her mother, developed a strong interest in art and built a significant collection in the 1950s-60s.29 The present bronze was one of her acquisitions. This incredibly rare sculpture of Krodha-Vighnantaka is a valuable contribution to the rich and complex art history of Indonesia. Provenance: Collection Mrs. Carolyn Oei, acquired in the 1950s-60s Expertise: Documentation Centre for Ancient Indonesian Art, Director J. Polak, Amsterdam, dated 20th February 2020 25 Linrothe, p.28 26 This time marks an interesting shift in Java as the political and artistic centre moved from Central to East. 27 For the Trailokya-Vijaya sculpture (c. 11th-13th century, bronze, h: 15 cm) in the Jakarta Museum, see: W. Cohn, Indische Plastik, (Berlin, 1922), figs. 166- 167 ; for the Buddhist Guardian Mahabala (Eastern Javanese period, 11th century, bronze, h: 16,5 cm) in the Metropolitan Museum see: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/37415, lastly visited 11/09/2020 28 Linrothe, p. 13 29 For information on Carolyn Oei estate, see: https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/an-unmounted-cushion-shaped-diamond-4503904-details.aspx, lastly visited 20/10/2020
KRODHA-VIGHNANTAKA Indonesia, Java , 11th century Bronze â€“ height: 13,4cm 42
TORSO OF A DEVI Cambodia, Angkor, First half 12th century Sandstone â€“ height: 49cm This divine female figure is difficult to identify due to the lack of attributes, which she may have held in her now missing hands. However, it is likely that she portrays the Hindu goddess Uma, consort of Shiva, or Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu, as the cult of these female deities was prevalent in the 12th century in Angkor. The Khmer kingdom of Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, if not the world. Stretching over 400km2, Angkor comprises the magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer empire, including impressive temples, reservoirs and monuments. King Suryavarman (1113 AD â€“ 1150 AD) was responsible for the building of the unrivalled construction of the Angkor Vat temple, the highlight of Khmer culture, and stimulated a varied and highly sophisticated devotional art production. This sandstone devi was made in the first half of the 12th century, when Angkor was in the midst of its development and showcases the finesse of early stone Angkor sculpture. This torso has a typical frontal composition, is sculpted in the round and has a well-balanced hourglass figure. She is wearing a classic Angkor garment called a sarong, which has numerous delicately incised pleats and an asymmetrical piece of fabric in the form of a fishtail with an ornamented rim draped down the middle part of her skirt. The garment is held in place with a magnificent decorated belt tied in the front with a finely carved figure-8 knot. Her adornments are rich, including an important looking necklace and arm cuffs. The many ornaments, the high level of definition, wellbalanced proportions and smoothly polished surface add to the exceptionality of this fine work of art. The spiritual power embodied in this hard sandstone figure is noted by its flowing lines and perfected beauty. This ideal goddess once received gifts and offerings by the admiring devotee. The stone has been naturally weathered resulting in an attractive slightly brown patina. Provenance: Private collection, The Netherlands, before 2011 Collection Mr. and Mrs. Dos and Bertie Winkel, Belgium 2011-2020 44
KRISHNA South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola dynasty, 12th century Bronze – height: 38cm Krishna is a much beloved avatar of the Hindu deity Vishnu and is here depicted as a dancing child balancing on his left foot. Krishna appears in many forms, for example dancing on the snake Kalinga he once defeated or crawling holding a butterball that he supposedly stole from his mother’s kitchen.30 The present is a non-narrative freestanding rendering of the Hindu deity and generates a playful impression appealing from all angles due to its dynamic pose. Stylistically the bronze is clearly cast by a South Indian master from the Chola period. Chola sculpture is considered a highlight in the artistic heritage of India, as this time was known for its continuous artistic refinement and innovation. Noteworthy are the saint’s sense of movement, well-balanced proportions and the gracefully stretched-out arm (dandahasta), often compared to an elephant trunk in contemporary literature.31 The figure has been cast solidly in one piece showcasing its technical sophistication. The separately cast lotus throne set on a square base is contemporary to the figure and shows traces of a leaf design typical of the Chola school. Few examples of an early Krishna as pure and honest as the present remain. A similar statue can be found in the Norton Simon Museum in California and another in the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii.32 The child saint Krishna was popular in the region of Tamil Nadu and was worshipped considerably. As with the sculpture of Parvati included in this catalogue (p.22-25), the four loops attached to the base suggest the sculpture was carried in procession. The bronze shows a typically worn patina created by many devotional water cleansings and indicates it was used as a temple sculpture. However, details do remain, such as the archetypal hairdo showing beautifully draped locks, decorative flower motifs, finely modelled stacked belts, anklets and necklaces. The combination of the authentic patina and the slightly faded embellishments leaves an aesthetically pleasing effect. In addition, it reminds us of the rituals that are associated with this kind of sculpture and the integration of high quality art in the daily devotional lives in Tamil Nadu.
Provenance: Collection Dr. Johan Pribyl and by descent, Austria, 1960s - 2002 Collection Mr. Enrico Castellani, Italy, 2003-2020 30 J. S. Hawley, Krishna, The Butter Thief, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2014), p.74 31 T.A. Gopinatha Rao, Elements of Hindu Iconography, (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publisher, 1985), p.16 32 P. Pal, Art from the Indian Subcontinent, Asian Art at the Norton Simon Museum, Volume 1, (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2003), p. 251 and https://honolulumuseum.org/collections/39974/, lastly visited 15/09/2020
KRISHNA South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola dynasty, 12th century Bronze â€“ height: 38cm 48
HEAD OF BUDDHA SAKYAMUNI Thailand, Lopburi kingdom, 13th century Bronze â€“ height: 17,5cm This cast head portrays Buddha Sakyamuni, also referred to as the historical Buddha. The fine quality of this head indicates that it once belonged to an important Buddha image, perhaps in a temple or sanctuary. It is probable that the head was affixed to a meditating Buddha sitting on the mythical snake Mukhalinda, as this iconography was prevalent at the time, especially in the Lopburi kingdom where they followed Hinayana Buddhism.33 Another possibility is that the head fitted to a seated or standing Buddha figure.34 The Lopburi style, flourishing for two centuries until the late 13th century, is one of the so-called pre-Thai styles, which prospered before the independent Sukhothai kingdom settled in central Thailand (circa 1238 â€“ 1438).35 The physiognomy of this head reveals some similarities to preceding Dvaravati sculptures (circa 6th-11th century): having a broad face with slightly square shape, pronounced open eyes, a wide mouth, and pendulous earlobes. The sculpture is more obviously influenced by the Khmer, due to their stronghold over the Lopburi kingdom in the 13th century. As a result, this bronze displays clear stylistic elements of Cambodian bronzes, in particular of the Angkor and Bayon schools.36 Although Lopburi displays a clear artistic influx from the above-mentioned regions, they did develop distinctive features unique to their kingdom. The square chin, prominent straight eyebrows flowing into the bridge of his long pronounced nose, thick band parting the hair from the face, the spikey hair curls, and a cone-shaped ushnisha topped by a lotus flower are all typical elements of a mature Lopburi style.37 All in all, this head of Buddha marks an important art-historic time in Southeast Asia, demonstrating a fusion of different cultures and existing traditions, predominantly that of the Khmer, whilst maintaining artistic originality. The statue is modelled with great care and noticeable skill and reveals a beautiful naturally aged patina, making it a striking object of devotion. Provenance: Collection Galerie Claude Jongen, Belgium, before 1977 Private collection, Belgium, 1977-2019 33 Hinayana Buddhism focuses on the concept that Buddha was a human being instead of a god. The goal of Hinayana Buddhists is to reach personal salvation. 34 P. Jermsawatdi, Thai Art with Indian Influences, (New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1979), p.69, 123 35 Jermsawatdi, p.67 36 J. Boisselier, The Heritage of Thai Sculpture, (New York/Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1975), p.107 37 Jermsawatdi, 69
HEAD OF BUDDHA SAKYAMUNI Thailand, Lopburi kingdom, 13th century Bronze â€“ height: 17,5cm 52
HEAD OF BUDDHA SAKYAMUNI Thailand, Lopburi kingdom, 13th century Bronze â€“ height: 17,5cm 54
BUDDHA SAKYAMUNI Thailand, Suphanburi, U-Thong principality, 14th century Bronze – height: 25,5cm The historical Buddha sits in virasana and has his hands in Maravijaya attitude - a pose held by most U-Thong Buddha images.38 The pose refers to Buddha destroying the demon Mara, which was his final challenge to complete in order to reach an enlightened state. The figure sits on a modest base, directing attention to the finely cast Buddha. Archaeological evidence shows that the ancient site of U-Thong, also known as the city of gold, was active as early as the Dvaravati period (ca. 6th-11th century) and was the very first Buddhist and trade centre in Thailand. The city reestablished shortly after the end of Khmer domination in the 14th century and was named after prince U-Thong (13141369). His medieval Thai principality was located near the ancient site of Suphanburi, where this sculpture was likely produced. In 1350 he became king and founded the kingdom Ayutthaya, moving the centre of his domain to one of the islands at the confluence of the Menam Chao Phraya and Pa Sak rivers, supporting a more widespread production of U-Thong Buddha icons. Whilst U-Thong sculptures still incorporate elements from Khmer and Dvaravati traditions, the style represents the early forms of what would become ‘Thai’ sculpture. Due to many surviving U-Thong Buddha images aesthetic developments can be distinguished, dividing U-Thong sculptures into three main stylistic groups – referred to as A, B, and C. The present figure shows typical elements of U-Thong B, including an oval shaped face, pronounced open earlobes bordered by an engraved line, and a straight band separating his hair from his face. Opposed to the curving Buddha sculptures produced in Sukhothai, this U-Thong Buddha shows sharper lines to define volumes and shapes, creating a more stylised Buddha image. Indeed, one could argue that U-Thong sculptures are influenced by Lopburi works of art discussed on p.50 in this catalogue, as the band framing Buddha’s face, the spiky curls, and strong facial features reminiscent of Khmer art can be detected. Nevertheless, this bronze, and U-Thong sculpture in general, show a more rounded physiognomy and gentle finish. This sculpture has a rich natural patina with remains of original polychromy. The figure is cast in one piece in the lost wax method and showcases Thai masters’ famed bronze casting skills. This relatively small sculpture of Buddha Sakyamuni is an archetypal product of early Thai Buddhist devotion and amongst the finest known examples of its type. The statue represents the initial stages of change in Thai art and is therefore an important exhibit of Thailand’s cultural landscape in the 14th century. Provenance: Collection Mr. Pisal Taechaviphak, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, 1995-2014 Collection Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Rodolitz, Thailand/USA, 2014-2020 38 Boisselier (1975), p. 162
BUDDHA SAKYAMUNI Thailand, Suphanburi, U-Thong kingdom, 14th century Bronze â€“ height: 25,5cm 58
VASUDHARA Nepal, Early Malla kingdom, 14th century Copper alloy with original gilding and inlaid precious stones – height: 17cm Vasudhara is a popular female bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, who ensures stability and wealth and protects the wellbeing of devotees.39 The goddess holds four attributes in her six hands, comprising a sheaf of grain, the kalasa holding the elixir of immortality, a jewelled stalk, and a manuscript containing the Prajnaparamita sutra text, identifying her as Vasudhara. She is depicted in a royal manner, adorned with abundant jewellery and sitting in lalitasana. The translation of her Sanskrit name is “stream of gems” and is visualised by the precious inlaid stones.40 Her queen-like appearance underlines her divine power, being the goddess of prosperity. This sculpture displays classic features of early Nepalese metal sculpture; amongst other elements, the hawk-like nose, inlaid stones, a gentle smile, and pointed ends of the garment with naturalistic overlaps.41 Also typical is the artist’s use of a complex casting method including a finely worked surface with delicate incised decorations, for example the flower pattern on her garment. Compared to similar dated Nepalese bronzes, this statue of Vasudhara can be dated to 14th century.42 The double necklace (one falling below the breast line), the cuffs worn high up the arm, the large ear ornaments, and the shape of the five-leafed tiara support this date. Classic Nepalese bronzes are technically and artistically amongst the finest known examples globally. Relatively small in size, the present Vasudhara would have originally been placed on a now missing lotus throne most likely made in the repoussé technique. The masterful quality of the bronze indicates it was cast for a temple. The naturally worn surface and red colouring on several areas of the patina are the result of daily devotion, involving ritual touching of the object, and appear due to the high level of copper present in the metal. Provenance: Collection Galerie De Ruimte, The Netherlands, before 1984 Collection Mr. Fons Wyers, The Netherlands, 1984 - 2008 Collection Mrs. Nellie van Deth, The Netherlands, 2008 - 2016 Collection Mr. and Mrs. J. Kurtz, Belgium, 2016 - 2020 39 I. Alsop, “Five Dated Nepalese Metal Sculptures”, in Artibus Asiae, vol.45, no.2/3 (1984), p. 208 40 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/38339, lastly visited 04/09/2020. 41 A stylistically similar example dating to the 13th century, although depicting another iconography, is a sculpture of Shiva and Parvati in the Rubin Museum, New York. https://rubinmuseum.org/collection/artwork/shiva-and-parvati, lastly visited 04/09/2020. 42 Alsop, p. 209 and P. Pal, Where the Gods are Young, (New York: Asia Society, 1975), p.81 and fig. 41
VASUDHARA Nepal, Early Malla kingdom, 14th century Copper alloy with original gilding and inlaid precious stones â€“ height: 17cm 62
HEAD OF BUDDHA SAKYAMUNI Thailand, Chieng Mai, Lan Na kingdom, 15th century Bronze – height: 40cm Once part of a large temple statue, this head represents Buddha Sakyamuni, also known as the Buddha of compassion who turns sufferings into happiness for all living beings. The stylistic features of this head indicate it was produced in the Lan Na kingdom in the 15th century. Lan Na established in the 13th century in Northern Thailand and was one of the most powerful states in the country until its fall in 1556. Chieng Mai, the capital of the kingdom since 1327, became renowned for its bronze casting workshops and developed a unique artistic language, subtly influenced by Pala sculpture from India, and the Sukhothai style. The celebrated academic Alexander Brown Griswold praised the Lan Na style in his study of dated Thai sculptures, especially during the reign of King Tiloka (1441-1487) – when this head was presumably made.43 This sculpture shows the characteristics appreciated by Griswold and connoisseurs alike, including the subtle flowing volumes of the face, smooth surface, downcast eyes with crisp outlines of the pupils, smooth-edged snail shell curls, and a serene expression with a compassionate smile. A large number of dated Buddha images from Northern Thailand studied by Griswold aid in dating this sculpture to the 15th century.44 The publication facilitated defining the stylistic development of Lan Na sculptures; a clear distinction can be made between early and late Lan Na Buddha images. This head belongs to the earlier period (14th-15th century) when the large lion-type face is modelled by less articulated volumes and lines, a higher degree of individuality and plasticity. This head of Buddha Sakyamuni is sculpted with great sensitivity and care. Its impressive size and masterful casting remind us of the talent of early Lan Na bronze masters. The sculpture is in good condition, showing a naturally worn deep patina with remains of original gilding. Provenance: Collection Galerie Claude Jongen, Belgium, before 1977 Private collection, Belgium, 1977 - 2019 Published: “A la Galerie Claude Jongen: les Visages de Bouddha, 2/6 – 1/10/1977,” in Salons et actualités des Arts: Mensuel D’Actualité Artistique, vol. 34, no.75, May 1977, p. 22, fig. 2. 43 A. B. Griswold, Dated Buddha Images of Northern Siam, (Zurich: Artibus Asiae, 1957), p.54 44 Ibid, p.29-60
HEAD OF BUDDHA SAKYAMUNI Thailand, Chieng Mai, Lan Na kingdom, 15th century Bronze â€“ height: 40cm 66
STUPA Central Tibet, 15th century Bronze, inlaid with silver and copper – height: 57cm A stupa (referred to as chöten in Tibet) is a funerary monument and is among the oldest emblematic symbols in Buddhism regularly depicted in religious art. Devotional sculptures of stupas vary in form, including small versions in metal, larger ones cast in bronze, such as the present artwork, or carved in stone or crystal. The stupa refers to the Mahapari-nirvanasutra text telling the last days of Buddha’s life, which implies that Buddha is eternal and surpasses space and time.45 Consequently, this symbolic stupa aided medieval Buddhists to contemplate life and death and one’s final moments.46 This finely cast stupa is composed of several geometrical forms, having a stepped square base, followed by a circular volume, mounted by another square tier and topped by a cylindrical spire with an affixed crown-like object representing the supramundane world (meaning the transcendental tier of consciousness). This configuration is similar to earlier depictions of stupas in Tibet and to 7th-8th century examples from Afghanistan and the Northern regions of India.47 This architectural structure bears cosmological symbolism. In particular, the interplay between square and circular shapes implies the Buddhist notion of microcosm/macrocosm, visualising the interaction of the material (square volumes) and supernatural (circular volumes) worlds; thus, the universe in its entirety. The 13 cylindrical rings deeply engraved in the top part of the stupa symbolise the 13 Bhumi – also known as the ten mystic powers and three types of mindfulness pertinent to achieving enlightenment. Sculptures of stupas generally function as a reliquary, enshrining remains or relics from celebrated monks, or holy texts in their hollow bodies – adding to the object’s devotional value.48 This sculpture is sealed and likely bears traces of such remains inside. Stylistically similar 15th century bronze stupas that were certainly used as reliquaries, such as the one in the LACMA museum in LA – in further support of this theory.49 Apart from housing relics, this stupa is essentially a votive image and intends to spiritually connect the devotee to Buddha and the dharma, his teachings.50 Images of Buddhas, animals, flowers and geometric designs adorn this stupa. The inlaid copper and silver further embellish this architectural masterpiece and create a beautifully coloured complex patina. As a result, this large bronze stupa is one of the most exquisite and impressive of its kind and denotes the artistic value of important religious sculptures made in 15th century Tibet. Provenance: Collection Mr. Benny Rustenburg, The Netherlands/Hong Kong, late 1990s-2007 Collection Mr. Laurent Solomon, Singapore, 2007-2020 45 P. Williams, Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, (Hove: Psychology Press, 1989) p.156 46 E. Y. Wang and A. Aldrich, Shaping the Lotus Stutra: Buddhist Visual Culture in Medieval China, (Washington: University of Washington Press, 2005), p. 78 47 K. Behrendt, Tibet and India: Buddhist Traditions and Transformations, (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014) p.14-15 48 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/39421, lastly visited 07/09/2020 49 https://collections.lacma.org/node/242931, lastly visited, 21/09/2020 50 https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/697341, lastly visited 07/09/2020
STUPA Central Tibet, 15th century Bronze, inlaid with silver and copper â€“ height: 57cm 70
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Colophon Â© 2021 NIES ORIENTAL ART, ANTWERPEN Art & Devotion The Splendour and Worship of Asian Sculpture Author Elena Nies Photography Copyright Gallery Printing L.capitan
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Art & Devotion encapsulates the essence of Asian religious sculpture. The sacred sculptures included in this catalogue demonstrate how artis...
Published on Feb 2, 2021
Art & Devotion encapsulates the essence of Asian religious sculpture. The sacred sculptures included in this catalogue demonstrate how artis...