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A HIGHLY IMPORTANT MONUMENTAL IMPERIAL GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF VAJRABHAIRAVA
China, Chenghua mark and period, dated 1473
H. 94 cm / 169 kg
The base inscribed:
"Daming chenghua jiu nian shiyi yue chu‘er ri anxigong shi" (Bestowed by the Anxi Palace on the second day, eleventh month, ninth year of the Chenghua period ).
Vajrabhairava is standing in alidhasana on a lotus base, his thirty-four arms radiate around his body, the hands holding the prescribed attributes, weapons and mudras, the principle ones embracing his prajna while holding karttrika and kapala, wearing tiger-skirt, heavily bejewelled, with sixteen legs, his nine faced-head consisting of the central ferocious looking bull-head flanked by six wrathful faces placed in a circle, topped with two more heads including that of Manjushri set against his red painted flaming hairdo secured with tiara’s in the shape of grinning skulls, his consort Vajravetali is flinging her left leg around his middle, her hands holding kapala and chopper and behind a large aureole forming leaking flames.
Manjushri assumed the buffalo-headed form of Yama, the god of Death, in order to conquer Death. Due to taking-on multiple limbs and heads he manifested himself greater than Yama.
Thus overwhelming Yama, he stops his killing activity and becomes the terminator of Death (yama-antaka). In Tibetan Buddhism there are three forms of Yamantaka of which
Vajrabhairava is the best known, most powerful, as represented by this gilt-bronze image.
The deity Vajrabhairava has acquired a special flavour amongst most Tibetan religious schools. During the New Year festivals he was evoked and propitiated according to the
Saskyapa method in special ceremonies performed by both Saskyapa and Nyingmapa followers. These festivities were a mixture of pre-Buddhist military ceremonies, shamanistic dances of exorcism, as well Buddhist rituals.
However, Vajrabhairava reached his finest momentum within the Gelugpa order founded by the Tibetan master Tsongkhapa (1357-1419). The latter dedicated even a text to this specific deity where he lucidly explained the symbolism of his various heads, limbs and attributes. The Tibetan teacher systemized further his complex iconography. In particular the specific arrangement of the seven heads in a circle topped by both others were pointed out by him. The presented sacred image shows this aspect perfectly well in all its magnitude.
A direct imperial link of this superb bronze is based on an extremely rare and lengthy inscription engraved on the base. It mentions that it was donated by the Anxi Palace during the reign of emperor Chenghua (1465-1487). Even rarer is the specific date contained in the inscription, namely: the second day of the eleven month in the ninth year of the Chenghua period, or 2 November 1473 (daming chenghua jiu nian shiyi yue chu’er ri anxigong shi).
To date, only two imperial objects are known that can be connected to the Anxi palace through their detailed inscription. Aside from this monumental bronze, the other piece is an embroidery depicting Buddha, dated to the birthday of the Chenghua emperor in the year 1471. One famous occupant of the Anxi palace was Wan Guifei, born as Wan Zhen'er (1430-1487), who moved there not until 1476 however. After her move, her rank was raised from 'guifei' (noble concubine) to 'huang guifei' (Imperial noble concubine), granting her de facto the same status as the crown prince's primary wife.
The Anxi palace was located next to the central palace of the empress, meaning that each occupant must have had at least the rank of 'guifei'. There are no known records of a second concubine of the same rank as Wan Guifei. However, an archaeological find near Mount Xishan in Beijing in 1998 brought the epitaph of Zhu Youji (1469-1472) to light. This epitaph mentions that his mother, Lady Bai, was the daughter of Bai Zhen, head of the 'jinyiwei' office, as well as a concubine of the rank 'guifei'. In 1464, she became a concubine of emperor Chenghua, reached the rank of 'fei' in 1466 and gave birth to zhu Youji in 1469. She was the only concubine to be buried in the same tomb as the emperor and his wife, when she died in 1527. Zhu Youji was the second son of the emperor. Wan Zhen'er was the mother of the first son, born in 1466, after which she received the rank of 'guifei'. However, the child died within the same year. Thus, when Zhu Youji was born, he was the only son of the emperor and subsequently named crown prince on 16 Nov 1471. He died only a few months later due to illness on 26 Jan 1472.
The style of this highly important bronze is based on the Newari tradition developed in Beijing during the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). The Tibetan abbot Phagspa (1235-1280) of the Saskyapa monastery and personal teacher of the Kublai Khan invited the Newari artist Aniko (1244-1306) to Beijing in 1263 where he was appointed head of the imperial bronze ateliers. At the beginning the mainly Newari craftsmen followed the Tibetan Buddhist iconography and stylistic preferences of those days. These specific iconographic elements were largely retained during the subsequent Ming dynasty (1368-1644). On the other hand the style itself became more sinicized in due course as one can glean from the presented bronze figure. Clearly this was the result of a stronger involvement of local Chinese artisans who had replaced the Newari craftsmen over time.
This impressive, esoteric sacred image is of an enormous high complexity for such sculptural forms and shows the exceptional dexterity of Chinese craftmanship during the fifteenth century. The figure is cast in several pieces, skilfully assembled to form a coherent and rhythmic composition. Further its monumental size, level of detail, the rare inscription that the bronze was produced during the reign of emperor Chenghua and donated by the Anxi Palace in 1473, makes it beyond doubt one of the most important gilt-bronzes to appear on the market for many years.
Base: 14 x 62 x 47 cm
Mandorla: 80 x 60 x 12 cm
Figure: 64 x 51 x 32 cm
Base: 43 kg
Mandorla: 32 kg
Figure: 94 kg
Gumpel Collection, Paris, sold Drouot, 24 November 1904, lot 469
Alan Hartman New York, 1975
Important European private collection
Just a very few of these large and monumental, fifteenth century, gilt-bronzes survived man and time. A small though astonishing group of large-scale gilt-bronzes, including the presented lot, was already offered at an early, important sale of Asian art at Hotel Drouot, Paris, in 1904 from the Collection Gumpel, lot 468.
Among the group were two other
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Bedeutende und monumentale feuervergoldete kaiserliche Bronze des Vajrabhairava
China, Chenghua-Marke und Periode, datiert 1473
H. 94 cm / 169 kg
Der Sockel mit Inschrift:
"Daming chenghua jiu nian shiyi yue chu'er ri anxigong shi" (Gestiftet vom Anxi-Palast, am zweiten Tag des elften Monats des neunten Jahres der Chenghua-Periode ).
Vajrabhairava steht in alidhasana auf einem Lotossockel, seine 34 Arme strahlen kreisförmig vom Körper ab, die Hände mit vorgeschriebenen Attributen, Waffen und Mudras, die wichtigsten umarmen seine Prajna, dabei Karttrika und Kapala haltend. Um die Hüfte trägt er einen reich geschmückten Tigerrock, auf sechzehn Beinen stehend. Sein Kopf trägt neun Gesichter mit dem zentralen Büffelkopf, flankiert von sechs zornvollen Gesichtern in einem Kreis, darauf zwei weitere Köpfe, darunter der des Manjushri vor seinem rot bemalten Haar, gesichert mit Tiaras in Form von grinsenden Schädeln. Seine Gefährtin Vajravetali schlingt ihr linken Bein um seine Taille, ihre Hände eine Kapala und Beil haltend, hinter einer großen Aureole aus Flammen.
Die mächtige, esoterische Gottheit Vajrabhairava repräsentiert sowohl die kosmische als auch die zornige Manifestation des Manjushri, Bodhisattva der Weisheit. Er steht für die resolute Weisheit der ultimativen Realität im Triumph über das Böse, das Leid und den Tod. Er ist ein Gott indischen Ursprungs, deutlich durch den Namensteil 'bhairava'. Er wird als Adaption des Mahabhairava in das buddhistische Pantheon verstanden, die wütende Form des Hindu-Gottes Shiva. Tatsächlich stellt Mahabhairava die kosmische Form Shivas dar, so wie Vajrabhairava jene des Manjushri ist. Seine acht Köpfe deuten auf die acht Richtungen hin, während der neunte (Kopf des Manjushri) das Zentrum des Universums symbolisiert. Die zahlreichen Arme und Beine durchdringen das Universum. Seine Beine zertrampeln diverse Kreaturen (hier fehlend) wie auch Shiva seinen kosmischen Tanz der Zerstörung auf einem Dämon tanzt. Der Namensteil 'vajra' ist das resolute Symbol der ultimativen Realität, welches sich als Mitgefühl äußert.
Manjushri nahm die büffelköpfige Form des Yama, Gott des Todes, an, um den Tod zu überwinden. Durch das Annehmen multipler Gliedmaßen und Köpfe manifestierte er sich größer als Yama und überwältigte ihn so, woraufhin er dessen Aktivitäten als Todesbringer beendete und zum Auslöscher des Todes wurde (yama-antaka). Im tibetischen Buddhismus gibt es drei Formen des Yamantaka, von denen Vajrabhairava die bekannteste und mächtigste ist.
Die Gottheit Vajrabhairava hat unter den meisten tibetisch-religiösen Schulen besondere Beliebtheit erlangt. Während des Neujahrsfestes wurde er in speziellen Zeremonien gemäß der Saskyapa-Methode heraufbeschworen und gnädig gestimmt. Diese wurden sowohl von Saskyapa- als auch Nyingmapa-Anhängern durchgeführt. Die Festivitäten waren eine Mischung aus prä-buddhistischen Militärzeremonien, schamanistischen Exorzismustänzen sowie buddhistischen Ritualen.
Seine größte Dynamik erreichte Vajrabhairava jedoch innerhalb des Gelugpa-Ordens, welcher vom tibetischen Meister Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) gegründet wurde. Letzterer widmete der Gottheit einen spezifischen Text, in welchem er die Symbolik der verschiedenen Köpfe, Extremitäten und Attribute klar erklärte und ihre komplexe Ikonographie systematisierte. Er deutete dabei ganz speziell auf die besondere Anordnung der sieben Köpfe in einem Kreis mit den beiden weiteren Köpfen als Spitze hin. Die hier gezeigte heilige Figur stellt diesen Aspekt vollumfänglich dar.
Die direkte kaiserliche Verbindung dieser prächtigen Bronze basiert auf der extrem seltenen und ausführlichen Inschrift, welche klarstellt, dass sie während der Chenghua-Periode vom Anxi-Palast gestiftet wurde. Noch seltener ist dabei die genaue Datierung auf einen bestimmten Tag, den zweiten Tag des elften Monats im neunten Jahr der Chenghua-Periode, oder: 2. November 1473.
Bis dato sind nur zwei kaiserliche Objekte bekannt, die durch eine entsprechend detaillierte Aufschrift mit dem Anxi-Palast in Verbindung gebracht werden können. Neben dieser monumentalen Bronzefigur handelt es sich dabei um eine im Shanghai-Museum befindliche Stickerei mit Darstellung des Buddha, welche auf den Geburtstag des Chenghua-Kaisers im Jahr 1471 datiert ist. Eine bekannte Bewohnerin des Anxi-Palastes war Wan Guifei, geb. Wan Zhen'er (1430-1487), welche jedoch erst 1476 aus dem Zhaode-Palast dorthin umzog. Ihr Rang wurde nach ihrem Umzug von 'guifei' (erhabene Konkubine) zu 'huang-guifei' (Kron-Konkubine) erhöht, wodurch sie de facto den gleichen Rang wie die Hauptfrau des Kronprinzen innehatte.
Der Palast Anxi lag direkt neben dem mittleren Palast der Kaiserin, weshalb dessen Bewohnerin zur Zeit des Chenghua-Kaisers zumindest den Rang 'guifei' innehaben sollte. Es sind keine Aufzeichnungen darüber bekannt, ob es neben Wan Guifei eine weitere Konkubine dieses Ranges im Palast gab, jedoch brachte eine Ausgrabung in der Nähe des Bergs Xishan in Beijing 1998 die Grabinschrift des ersten Kronprinzen Zhu Youji (1469-1472) hervor. Dieser Inschrift konnte entnommen werden, dass dessen Mutter, Frau Bai, eine Tochter des Leiters des 'Jinyiwei'-Amtes, Bai Zhen, und eine Konkubine des Ranges 'guifei' war. Sie wurde 1464 zur Nebenfrau des Kaisers Chenghua, erhielt 1466 den Titel 'fei' (Konkubine) und brachte 1469 Zhu Youji zur Welt. Sie wurde zur einzigen Konkubine, die neben Chenghua und dessen Kaiserin im kaiserlichen Grab erhielt, wo sie 1527 beerdigt wurde. Zhu Youji war der zweite Sohn des Kaisers. Den ersten Sohn gebar 1466 Wan Zhen'er, deren Titel daraufhin von 'fei' zu 'guifei' erhöht wurde. Das Kind starb jedoch noch im selben Jahr. Somit war Zhu Youji der einzige Sohn des Kaiser und somit Kronprinz, als er am 16.11.1471 geboren wurde. Auch er starb jedoch noch im Kindesalter am 26.01.1472.
Insofern liegt nahe, dass Zhu Youjis Mutter, Frau Bai, um 1471/72 im Anxi-Palast wohnte, da sie zu der Zeit den Titel 'guifei' trug, bevor auch Wan Zhen'er diesen Titel erhielt und schließlich 1476 dort einzog. Beide Stücke, die Stickerei im Shanghai-Museum und die hier angebotene Bronze könnten somit also Geschenke der hohen Konkubine Bai gewesen sein, um dem Kaiser ein langes Leben zu wünschen, da Vajrabhairava, der "Beender des Todes", auch als Gottheit für die Erlangung langen Lebens gesehen werden kann.
Stilistisch basiert diese bedeutende Figur auf der Newari-Tradition, welche sich in Peking während der Yuan-Dynastie (1279-1368) entwickelte. Der tibetische Abt Phagspa (1235-1280) des Saskyapa-Klosters und persönlicher Lehrmeister von Kublai Khan lud den Newari Künstler Aniko (1244-1306) 1263 nach Peking ein, wo er zum Leiter der kaiserlichen Bronzewerkstatt ernannt wurde. Zunächst folgten die Newari-Kunsthandwerker der Ikonographie des tibetischen Buddhismus und den stilistischen Präferenzen ihrer Zeit. Diese speziellen ikonographischen Elemente wurden während der folgenden Ming-Dynastie (1368-1644) größtenteils beibehalten, jedoch wurde der Stil selbst sinisierter, wie auch an dieser Bronze deutlich wird, was wiederum auf die zunehmende Mitwirkung der lokalen chinesischen Kunsthandwerker zurückzuführen ist, welche mit der Zeit ihre Newari-Pendants ersetzten.
Diese Bronzefigur des Vajrabhairava zeigt eine enorm hohe Komplexität in Bezug auf ihre skulpturalen Formen sowie das außergewöhnliche Geschick der chinesischen Kunstfertigkeit während des 15. Jahrhunderts. Die Figur wurde in mehreren Teilen gegossen und gekonnt zusammengesetzt, um eine stimmige und rhythmische Komposition zu formen.
Maße: Sockel: 14 x 62 x 47 cm; Mandorla: 80 x 60 x 12 cm; Figur: 64 x 51 x 32 cm; Gewicht: Sockel: 43 kg; Mandorla: 32
796 | Asiatische Kunst
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2. Defects a) All property items offered for auction can be viewed and inspected prior to the auction. The property items are second-hand. The catalogue descriptions are made to the best of the author’s knowledge and belief, but are for purposes of information exclusively and are not part of the contrac- tually agreed properties and condition of the items within the meaning of § 434 of the Civil Code, in particular they do not constitute guarantees within the meaning of § 443 of the Civil Code. The same applies to verbal or written information of all kinds, as well as the designation of the items when called. If an Internet catalogue is made in addition, the information in the printed version is nonethe- less authoritative. Impairments in the state of the items’ preservation are not stated in every case, so that lack of information likewise does not furnish grounds for an agreement on the quality of the items. The Auctioneer reserves the right to make corrections to catalogue information. These corrections take the form of written notices posted at the place of the auction and verbal corrections made by the Auctioneer immediately prior to the auction of the specific item. The corrected information takes the place of the catalogue descriptions. All items are offered for auction in the state in which they are found at the time of the auction. b) In the event of quality defects and defects of title claimed within 12 months after the knockdown, the Auctioneer shall undertake at his own discretion to assign his claims or to assert his claims directly against the Consignor. The condition for this is that the buyer has completely paid the bill for the auction. The costs of legal action taken against the Consignor are borne by the buyer, insofar as the Auctioneer receives no reimbursement of costs from the Consignor. The valuation of a recognized expert proving the defect and made at the expense of the buyer is necessary for the assertion of a claim for a quality defect. If claims made against the Consignor are successful, the Auctioneer shall refund only the purchase price to the buyer, matching payment with the return of the property. The buyer is still under obligation to pay the premium as compensation for the services of the Auctioneer. In all other respects, the Auctioneer shall assume no liability for quality defects and defects of title, insofar as the Auctioneer has fulfilled his obligations to exercise diligence. This shall not affect any liability of the Auctioneer for bodily harm or injury to health.
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