India or Nepal, 18th - 19th century. Standing in kayotsarga atop a circular base with leafy vines wrapped around his arms and legs. The serene face with heavy-lidded almond-shaped eyes below curved brows as well as an aquiline nose and full lips forming a subtle smile, flanked by long pendulous earlobes, the hair arranged in tight curls.
Provenance: Collection of Gerard Wahl-Boyer and thence by descent within the same family. French private collection, acquired from the above. Gerard Wahl-Boyer (d. 2014), better known to most as 'Bebe Rose', was an insatiable collector whose interests spanned a wide range of religious and tribal art from South and East Asia as well as Africa. He was a fixture in Parisian auction rooms, known as a great picker.
Condition: Very good condition with old wear and minor casting flaws, few losses, dents, nicks, and scratches as well as signs of weathering and erosion. Remnants of pigment. Fine, naturally grown, dark patina with small areas of malachite encrustation.
Weight: 2,440 g
Dimensions: Height 39 cm
The torso and lower body are cast separately, though not detachable, suggesting the possibility of relics contained within, indicated also by the circular aperture to the back of the head.
Bahubali was the son of Rishabhanatha (the first tirthankara of Jainism) and the brother of Bharata Chakravartin. He is said to have meditated motionless for a year in a standing posture (kayotsarga) and that during this time, climbing plants grew around his legs. After his a year of meditation, Bahubali is said to have attained omniscience (Kevala Gyana).
In 948 AD the Ganga general Chavundaraya commissioned a monumental sculpture of Bahubali at Shravanbelagola, Karnataka. The Gommateshwara statue is the tallest monolithic statue in the world today and was carved out of a single block of granite. It is 17 meters and can be seen from 30 kilometers away. This image inspired the production of smaller devotional images of Bahubali that became popular in southern India. Such images were for household use and were often bought back by pilgrims from one of the Jain tirthas (pilgrimage sites) or centers of Jainism.
Literature comparison: Compare a closely related but smaller bronze figure of Bahubali, also dated 1500-1700, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, accession number IM.14-1922. Compare also a larger and older carved chlorite figure, dated to the 14th century, in the British Museum, museum number 1880.241, and a much earlier and smaller bronze figure, dated late 6th to 7th century, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 1987.142.339.
Auction result comparison: Compare a related but earlier figure of a Jina, dated 10th-11th century, at Christie's New York in Indian and Southeast Asian Art on 23 March 2010, lot 166, sold for USD 62,500.