Sino-Tibetan Gilt-Bronze Tara Bodhisattva

SKU CB.227
Condition

Very Fine

Circa

18th Century AD to 19th Century AD

Dimensions

5.8″ (14.7cm) high x 3.8″ (9.7cm) wide x 2.4″ (6.1cm) depth

Medium

Gilt Bronze

Origin

Tibet

Gallery Location

UK


 

A paradigm of the Sino-Tibetan tradition of Buddhist statuary, this delicate gilt-bronze statuette depicts the White Tara bodhisattva: the “mother of liberation” and a representation of longevity, wisdom and healing practice. In the Buddhist religion, bodhisattvas are souls who have attained enlightenment and no longer need to reincarnate, but forsake nirvana and choose to remain on earth to alleviate the suffering of others. Situated at the crossroads of present-day India, Nepal and China, the Tibetan bodhisattva incorporates elements from the different cultures while retaining a distinct Tibetan style. Conceived by Tibetan bronze casters – among the finest in the world – this work embodies the style of bronze-cast statuettes that is most sought- after on the market today. Atop this female bodhisattva’s head, we see an ornate eight-pronged crown that surrounds the central top-knot (or ushnisha) of the extra brain, symbolic of the Buddha’s spiritual wisdom. Intricately decorated with circular carvings supposed to resemble jewels, the pronged crown also has details of draped beads that rest softly on the bodhisattva’s forehead. Beginning above the long, drooping earlobes weighed down with concentric circles of jeweled earrings, we see the earliest lotus flower motif. From these lotus flowers behind the ears and tucked under the crown, an ornate drape of surplice billows out from the head of the bodhisattva, decorated near the shoulders with more lotus flower motifs, and continuing all the way down to the hands. The bodhisattva’s facial features are subtle. Her mood is soft and compassionate. Though the face’s height is slightly greater than its width, the near proportionality suggests fullness. The cheeks themselves are flat, consequently imparting a squareness to the face that accounts for this lessening of severity. Outlines of the long, narrow sloping eyes are cut into protruding mounds, which is vitalized with painted black pupils to give life to the bodhisattva. The ends of the arcs of the yet-longer eyebrows match the curvature of the eyes from their origins at the nose, yet curl slightly downwards at their ends. Though slightly damaged today, the figure’s nose is strong and pronounced. Her lips are even more so, curving upwards in a soothing, red-painted smile that matches the promises of her mudras. The bodhisattva wears a unique jeweled necklace that has beads that separate at the shoulders, gathering around her breasts and converging at the bodhisattva’s naval. Noteworthy is the bodhisattva’s curved, off- kilter torso that is reminiscent of a farther South Asian tradition of Buddhist statuary, yet can be found in Sino-Tibetan sculpture because of its geographic location. The bodhisattva’s left arm is raised close to its breast in the Prithvi mudra – an important healing mudra shown to increase the earth element and decrease the fire element within the body. The right hand is extended downwards in the Varada mudra: the gesture of charity and suggestive of the fulfilment of wishes. Together, these two mudras match the bodhisattva’s calm and reassuring smile. The bodhisattva’s legs are not perfectly in Dhyana asana, with one curled upwards near the pelvis and the other resting on an extension of the double-lotus flower pedestal – the Lalita asana. This extension appears to be a distinct petal of the lotus flower and supports the earthly deity’s light and airy foot with ease. Around the legs and feet, we see the slight bunching of the fabric and culmination of the draped beads. The double-lotus flower base, commonly seen in Sino-Tibetan sculpture, is surrounded by two beaded edges, one at the top and one at the bottom to further the symmetry of the double-lotus flower pedestal. Magnus Allan

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