25 Nov Gallery:
AGNI AND HIS BRIDE SVAHA
Central India, 12th century
Sandstone, 68 by 33 cm
Offers are made to the gods during rites through the figure of Agni, the god of fire, also known as “the Ancient”: his beard emphasises his great age. In his right hand he holds the long sacrificial spoon used to pour the oblations into the flames, whilst his left holds the breast of his bride Svaha, oblation personified. The goddess holds the libation jug. The two gods’ dance seams to be the tribhanga’s posture, the three-bending position so typical of the Indian sculpture.
CROWNED HEAD OF A BODHISATTVA
North India, Akhnoor area, 6th century
Terracotta with gilded traces. H. 16 cm
In an area situated within Afghanistan, Pakistan and India of today, some different styles developed, mixing Gandhara elements with others from Indian influence and especially from Kashmir: in those days, it was an important area of buddhist faith.
Distemper and gold on paper, 30 by 20 cm
It’s a sheet of a miniated text, of an unknown subject. On the back – decorated with a flower pot against a floral background- there is an inscription in Urdu, the language of the Moghul court.
MASK OF ABI
India, Arunachal Pradesh
Wood with red and black laquer, H. 25 cm
It’s the mask of the ancestor Abi, the matriarch of Monpa ethnic group, a buddhist population that lives in an area within the Tibet, Burma and India borders. She depicts one of the mythical personage of a popular saga mixing buddhism with Monpa legends. Her face is furrowed with wrinkles, her neck is swelled up by the goitre, the Monpa’s endemic sickness.
Southern Nepal or Tibet, 19th century or earlier
Patinated wood, H 27 cm
Among the various personages of ritual dances of Cham, there exists a pair of protector masks. Their terrifying face only serves for driving away the Evil enemies of buddhism. This old mask, with its wonderful patina of use, comes from a monastery of southern Nepal.
MAITREYA, THE BUDDHA OF FUTURE
China, Tang dynasty (618-907)
Terracotta, H 36 cm
During the Tang dynasty buddhism became very popular, before the prohibition of this cult by an emperor who did not want foreign faiths to spread. Maitreya is exactly the Buddha who, in the future, started a new era of peace and consciousness. This elegant figure seated in the “westen”posture, is a good example of the most fruitful phase of Tang sculpture.
Tibet, 16th century
Firegilt repousse 36 by 34 cm
At this prabha’s centre was the statue of a standing figure. At its sides, eight different bodhisattvas sit on a lotus flower, worked in high relief. The style of this prabha is very similar to those of the famous Densatil Monastery that was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
HANIWA OF A SHAMAN
Japan, Kofun Period (250-538)
Terracotta, 54 by 35 cm
The “Haniwa” sculptures (hollow clay sculptures) date to one of the most ancient periods of Japanese history, when the Buddhism was not yet known. These funerary figures were placed in the tombs of the aristocracy or heroic warriors; they are sculptures presenting a plain essentiality, even though full of archaic and powerful mystery.
Tibet, 19th century
Patinated wood, H 48 cm
This guardian deity helps the devotees in overcoming the mental obstacles during their spiritual path. He has three faces and six hands, two of which hold a ritual dagger (phur-pa). When bought in Kathmandu 40 years ago, it was referred to as a “mother phur-pa” hung by a cord upon other phur-pas waiting to be consecrated. On the back of this dagger a face has been carved but upside down, probably a second phur-pa kilaya.
VARAHA, Vishnu as a boar
Central India, 10th century
Sandstone, H 50 cm
Varaha is the third of the 10 mythological incarnations of god Vishnu. Here the Boar saves the Earth kidnapped by a demon carrying her in the ocean’s deep waters. Vishnu-Varaha carries her away from the deadly demon’s teeth and brings her back to safety. This sculpture represents an extraordinary dynamism of the moment in which the god raises the Earth from the cosmic waters. His powerful body seems to hover in the air.
Mon Art of Dvaravati
Southern Thailand, 8th century
Stucco with ochre pigment, H. 29 cm
The emphasized oval of the face, the full lips and the downword half-closed eyes : all these are typical characteristics of the Mon Art. This ethnic group settled in some Thailand and Burma areas in the first millenium BCE. The buddhist art of Dvaravati -this is the name of that historical, stylistic and geographical period- was influenced by the Gupta period of Indian Art and fostered Indian buddhism all over the South-east Asia.
Southern India, Tamil Nadu
18th century, bronze, H. 54 cm
This altar bronze is made of three separated parts: the god’s statue, the base on which he stands and the halo (toran) all around him. Shiva is depicted here in one of his various forms: with four arms and the head of Ganga on his crown, the goddess of the Ganga river.
China, Ming dynasty, 13th/14th century
Sandstone, H 23 cm
Luohan is the Chinese name (arhat) of the sixteen disciples of the historical Buddha, each one of them being characterized by a different expression of face and features. This Luohan has shaven hair – like all the buddhist monks. The well shaped volumes of the face emphatize his physiognomy.
Nepal, 13th century
Wood with gilt traces, H 12 cm
Padmapani is a form of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the perfect compassionate diety who gave up nirvana in order to help human beings on the path towards Consciousness. His raised left hand holds a lotus flower while his right one is in the gesture of “keeping the fear away”. This small but elegant sculpture informs the classical style of the first period of Malla’s dynasty art.