NEW YORK, NY.- On March 19, Christie’s saleroom will be devoted to the classical works of Indian and Southeast Asian Art. Christie’s will offer an extensive selection of over 200 lots of sculpture, paintings, ritual objects, and works of art from India, Tibet, Nepal and Southeast Asia. Highlights include a Tibetan gilt bronze figure of a bodhisattva (pictured above), a Gandharan bronze figure of Buddha from the 6th/7th century, and a South Indian Chola bronze figure of Vinadhara Dakshinamurti.
The Tibetan gilt bronze figure of a bodhisattva from the 9th/10th century comes from a private European Collection (estimate on request). Standing nearly four feet tall, this large and resplendent figure of a bodhisattva is one of the most impressive early sculptures in bronze to be seen outside of Tibet. The present work represents a unique moment in stylistic development, evolving from and engaging with the nearby artistic traditions of Northeastern India and Nepal while working with the existing Tibetan style of sculpture. Certain aspects of the work also demonstrate a familiarity with Nepalese sculpture, specifically the treatment of the headdress.
An important and large gilt bronze figure of bodhisattva. Tibet, 9th-10th century, 43 ¼ in. (110 cm.) high. Estimate upon request. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013
Standing with both legs straight, his right hand held to his chest in jnanamudra and his left holding the stem of a lotus, clad in a short dhoti incised with a foliate pattern and secured with a festooned belt with a pendant string of jewels, adorned with various jewelry and the sacred thread, the face with gentle smile, elongated eyes, and gently arching brows flanked by pendulous earlobes supporting heavy earrings and surmounted by a foliate tiara, the hair with neat curls at the front arranged in a tiered chignon topped with a lotiform finial, with locks escaping over the shoulders
Provenance: Private collection, Europe, acquired in London, 9 January 1987
Literature: P. Pal, Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure, 2003, p. 169, cat. no. 108
Rossi & Rossi, Gods and Demons of the Himalayas, 2012, p. 44, cat. no. 16
Exhibited: Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure, The Art Institute of Chicago, 5 April - 17 August 2003, cat. no. 108
Gods and Demons of the Himalayas, Fine Art Asia, Hong Kong, 4-7 October, 2012; Rossi & Rossi, London, 1-10 November, 2012, cat. no. 16
Notes: This large and resplendent figure of a bodhisattva is one of the most impressive early sculptures in bronze to be seen outside of Tibet. The right hand is raised to the chest with the fingers curled inwards with a short stub remaining that would have supported a ritual implement. Based on the gesture of the hand, it is likely he held a vajra. In 2003 Dr. Pal argued that this figure might represent the deity Vajrasattva (P. Pal, Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure, 2003, p. 169, cat. no. 108), noting the precedent for some standing Vajrasattva figures in early Tibetan sculpture. Vajrasattva is usually shown holding the vajra in front of the chest, while ringing the ghanta, the ceremonial bell, with his other hand.
The Vajrasattva identification, however, is tempered by that deity's association with Vajrayana Buddhism, rather than Mahayana. While Vajrayana was introduced to Tibet as early as the 10th century through the work of Rinchen Zangpo and, later, Atisha, it remained for many years in the domain of learned monks. The myriad of secret rituals that formed the basis of early tantric Tibetan Buddhism was far too esoteric for the masses of common worshippers. Instead, the traditions of the earliest form of Buddhism, associated with worship of Shakyamuni Buddha and the sixteen arhats (previously referred to as Hinayana), and Mahayana, with its emphasis on the bodhisattvas, were more dominant systems amongst the Buddhist masses in this period in Tibet. Temples associated with monasteries would have had multiple shrines, with some devoted to "Hinayana," others with Mahayana images, and a third group reserved for Vajrayana practices. The first two types of shrines would have been generally available to all who wished to worship, while the tantric parts of the temple were reserved for the practiced Vajrayana monk or guru. As these practitioners understood the philosophy of Vajrayana beyond the visual level, they would not have needed and therefore were unlikely to have commissioned large images such as the present example. It is more likely that a bodhisattva sculpture of this size and date would have been found in the Mahayana part of a temple.
As Buddhism evolved, schisms within the faith resulted in divergent belief systems; the earlier "Hinayana" form, with its emphasis on the Shakyamuni Buddha and the arhats, was to a certain extent supplanted by Mahayana Buddhism, which placed a greater importance on Amitabha and a core group of bodhisattvas. Enlightened beings whose goal was to help all creatures attainnirvana, bodhisattvas were appropriate figures of worship for the common Buddhist masses. In early Tibetan temples, these figures would have been imposingly large and placed in groups of either three or eight. An important early example of a bodhisattva triad was installed at the Kojarnath temple in Purang in the Kingdom of Guge in Western Tibet. Dating from the late 10th or early 11th century, the triad depicted a large figure of Manjushri in silver at center, flanked by comparably sized figures of Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani - the three bodhisattvas were referred to as "The Three Lords of the World." At this time, Guge was an important Buddhist center and popular pilgrimage destination for Tibetans; its king, Ye shes 'Od, sent out emissaries to India to bring back Buddhist scholars and texts, and Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055), who had studied under Atisha in India, is credited with the Second Diffusion of Buddhism to Tibet. It is likely the early triad at Kojarnath, produced sometime after Rinchen Zangpo's return from India, served as the model for other Mahayana shrines in Tibet. Indeed, a resplendent triad in the Pritzker Collection and included in the 2003 Chicago exhibition is likely based in part on the triad at Kojarnath (see P. Pal, Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure, 2003, pp. 136-137, cat. no. 87). While the iconography and religious practice of the Kojarnath triad and others like it are likely models for the present work, stylistically that work and the current example would have been markedly different. The present work represents a unique moment in stylistic development, evolving from and engaging with the nearby artistic traditions of Northeastern India and Nepal while working with the existing Tibetan style of sculpture. In the straight hips, lithe torso, and tall face, there is little evidence of a Kashmiri influence, making it unlikely the work could have originated in Western Tibet. The attention to the jewelry, in particular the sacred thread and the pendant string of jewels between the legs, can be compared with Pala examples of the 9th and 10th centuries. Likewise, the soft modeling of the belly and the associated curvilinear waist of the dhotiis a development of Northeastern Indian sculpture, in contrast to the straight waist of Kashmiri bronzes. The facial features, with the prominently curved nose, almond-shaped eyes, and most strikingly, the treatment of the brows and urna, also refer to Pala stylistic conventions.
Certain aspects of the work also demonstrate a familiarity with the sculpture of Tibet's neighbor, Nepal. The most striking resemblance to Nepalese style is found in the treatment of the headdress. In the present work, the hair is arranged in three domed tiers, faced with foliate medallions and topped with a tall finial in the form of a Nepalese Vajracharya crown (for a 13th century example of a three-tiered crown, see J. Huntington and D. Bangdel, Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art, 2004, p. 225, cat. no. 60). Indeed, the Pala style had by the 9th and 10th centuries permeated Nepalese sculptural traditions, and it is possible both the Pala and Nepalese influences found in the present work were established through study of Nepalese sculpture, rather than actual Pala prototypes.
The present example relates to two silver sculptures of Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani in the Ngor Monastery in Southern Tibet, dated to the 11th century (see U. von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculpture in Tibet, vol. I, pp. 310-311, cat. nos. 106B and 106D). In the image of Avalokiteshvara in particular, the armbands, bracelets, sacred thread, ribbons at the hips, and the pendant string of jewels between the legs are remarkably similar to those in the present example, as is the straight leg posture, long arms, and thin neck. In the figure of Vajrapani, one can detect similarities to the current example in the hand gestures and also in the unusual finial of the chignon. While today housed at Ngor, they were originally installed at Sakya Monastery, an important Buddhist center founded in the 11th century in South-Central Tibet, close to the border with Nepal, and home to the Sakya order of Tibetan Buddhism.
Also among the highlights of the sale is a bronze figure of Shiva Vinadhara Dakshinamurti, one of four types of supreme teachers of ultimate awareness, understanding, and knowledge (estimate: $400,000-600,000). Executed during the Chola period in Southern India, this representation of Vinadhara bears close resemblance to that of Tripuravijaya, the vanquisher of the triple-city of demons, based on the iconographic convergence between the two forms. A consignment of the Dharma Collection, this bronze has an exceptional pedigree, having been exhibited at several notable institutions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
A Bronze Figure Of Shiva Vinadhara Dakshinamurti, South India, Chola period, last quarter 10th century first quarter 11th century, 21 3/8 inches (54.3 cm) high. Estimate: USD400,000-600,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013
Sensitively cast and superbly modeled standing with one foot slightly foward on a lotus base over a square plinth, his principle hands poised to play the vina and the upper ones holding the battle-axe and antelope, dressed in a short veshti secured with a belt and adorned with various necklaces and the sacred quadruple thread, the face wearing a benevolent expression with gentle smile and elongated eyes, the tall jatamukuta supporting the skull, serpent, and crescent moon
Provenance: George Bickford Collection, Cleveland, by 1965
The Dharma Collection, Israel, acquired circa 1984
Literature: P. Chandra, et al., Master Bronzes of India, 1965, cat. no. 38
S. Czuma, Indian Art from the George P. Bickford Collection, 1975, cat. no. 16
Exhibited: Master Bronzes of India, The Art Institute of Chicago, 3 September 10 October; The William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art and Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Arts, Kansas City, 10 October - 19 December 1965; The Cleveland Museum of Art, 19 January - 27 February 1966; Asia House Gallery, New York, 12 October - 11 December 1966, cat. no. 38
Indian Art from the George P. Bickford Collection, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 14 January - 16 February 1975; University Art Museum, University of Texas, Austin, 20 March - 25 April 1975; Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign, 5 October - 9 November 1975; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Boston, 3 February - 7 March 1976; University Gallery, University of Florida, Gainesville, 28 March - 3 May 1976; Phoenix Art Museum, 28 May - 30 July 1976; University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, 5 October - 28 November 1976; University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, 2 January - 13 February 1977, cat. no. 16
On loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1985-1998 (loan no. 551-1985)
Notes: Shiva Vinadhara Dakshinamurti is one of four types of Dakshinamurtis, or supreme teachers of ultimate awareness, understanding, and knowledge. "Dakshinamurti" literally means "one who faces south," the direction associated with change, transformation, and renewal. In the aspect of Vinadhara, the player of the vina, Shiva expounds on the timeless principles of vocal and instrumental music, which is known to lead to liberation (moksha) without strain. In Indian philosophy music is comparable to yogic practice in that both involve the control of breath, mental absorption, and the ultimate release from all obsessions of the mind.
The representation of Vinadhara bears close resemblance to that of Tripuravijaya, the vanquisher of the triple-city of demons, based on the iconographic convergence between the two forms, especially as depicted during the Chola period. The legend of Tripuravijaya recounts that Shiva at one time granted three cities made of gold, silver, and iron, and situated in the heavens, the air, and on earth, to some powerful demons. Over a period of one thousand years these demon cities became so powerful and wreaked such havoc that the gods, concerned for the safety of the universe, appealed to Shiva for assistance. Shiva raised his bow, and using a snake as his bowstring, he reduced the three cities to ashes with a single flaming arrow. In both Shiva as Vinadhara and as Tripuravijaya, the principle hands are positioned in such a fashion that his left hand could be holding a bow or the neck of the vina, and his right could be holding an arrow or plucking the instrument's strings. His upper hands hold a battleaxe and antelope, as in the present example, or occasionally a trident, and he sometimes bears a skull in addition to the serpent and crown in his jatakamukuta.
The close visual parallel between Tripuravijaya and Vinadhara reveals the god's dual aspects of powerful warrior and beneficent yogi. The subtle divergence in appearance between these two manifestations of Shiva provides continued material for scholarly discussion. In the exhibition catalogue The Sensuous and the Sacred (2002), Vidya Dehejia and R. Nagaswamy re-identify two examples of this iconographic type, one from the Cleveland Museum of Art and the other from the collection of Robert H. Ellsworth (pp. 106-111, cat. nos. 5 and 6), as Shiva Tripuravijaya. Stylistically the present work has much in common with these two published works. The proportions of the body are similar, with broad shoulders, elongated legs, and firm, high buttocks, and the veshti is similarly tied, with a short pleat hanging between the thighs. The jewelry is also similarly designed and placed, including the coiling acanthus-leaf-styled armbands, the quadrupled holy thread, and the heavy anklets that rest atop the feet. Notable are the tassels of his necklaces; one hangs from the present figure's right shoulder towards the front and the other hangs in the middle of the back, terminating in a peepul leaf design. Very similar tassels are seen in the two works mentioned above, as well as in a figure of Bhogeshvari from Pallavesvara (see D. Barrett, Early Cola Bronzes, 1965, fig. 33). All three comparable works are dated between circa 950-1000, hence a similar date seems likely for the present figure.
The proliferation of images of (and resembling) Tripuravijaya may be connected to the expansion and consolidation of the Chola dynasty and the flourishing of its artistic legacy under Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi (active 941-1001) and her son, the great Emperor Rajaraja Chola I (r.985-1014), during the second half of the tenth century. Rajaraja I, for whom Shiva as Tripuravijaya seems to have held a special significance (for a well-researched discussion see G. J. Schwindler, "Speculations of the Theme of Siva as Tripurantaka as it Appears During the Reign of Rajaraja I in the Tanjore Area ca. A.D. 1000," in Ars Orientalis, vol. 17 (1987), pp. 163-178), is known to have attacked three important regions - Kerala, Sri Lanka, and the Pandya domain - in order to break up their control of the western trade and consolidate the region under Chola power. The emperor was a great warrior, but he was also an ardent devotee of Shiva, and he contributed greatly to the Chola's artistic legacy through his sponsorship of the Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur. Shiva as Tripuravijaya is prominently featured on the Great Temple's interior and exterior walls, and it is likely that portable representations of Trupiravijaya, Dakshinamurti and other deities similar to the present figure, were included among the processional bronzes that propelled the ruler's great devotion throughout the surrounding city streets. This is an exceptionally well-modeled bronze with extraordinary grace and pedigree.
A magnificent figure of Buddha is one of the largest of its kind, at over one foot in height, belonging to an extremely rare type of bronze cast in the regions of ancient Gandhara and the Swat Valley in the 5th through 7th centuries (estimate: $500,000-700,000). Also contributing to the work’s importance is that it still carries its backplate, a combined nimbus and aureole with radiating spokes with an extremely rare motif of flying geese. As the goose is a traditional Indian symbol for the soul, it represents the notion of reincarnation, and is thus an appropriate visual symbol for the Buddhist pursuit of transformation.
A highly important and rare bronze figure of Buddha, Gandhara, 6th-7th century, 14¼ in. (36.2 cm.) high. Estimate $500,000-700,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013
Standing with his right hand raised in abhayamudra and the left hanging at his side, dressed in a billowing robe draped over both shoulders, the face with full lips and heavy-lidded eyes with the locks of hair pulled up and tied in a topknot, backed by a combined nimbus and aureole with a band of flying geese, the two at the top with a strand of jewels issuing from their mouths, surrounded by foliate bands, all within a border of radiating spokes
Provenance: Private Collection, Tokyo
Eurasian Art, acquired in 1982
Private collection, Kyoto, 1982-2004
Private collection, New York, 2004-2013
Notes: This magnificent figure of Buddha belongs to an extremely rare type of bronze cast in the regions of ancient Gandhara and the Swat Valley in the 5th through 7th centuries. The figure is one of the largest of its type, and it still carries its backplate, a combined nimbus and aureole with radiating spokes with an extremely rare motif of flying geese. The solidly cast bronze is a masterpiece of the Buddha image, which illustrates the profound marriage of the contemporary Gupta style with the earlier influences of Hellenistic Gandhara.
The ancient region of Gandhara, straddling the Khyber Pass in what is now eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, was for centuries an important center of trade and commerce due to its position at the crossroads between India, China, and the Mediterranean world. In the centuries before the beginning of the Common Era, the region came under Hellenistic control after Alexander the Great annexed Gandhara to his expansive empire and later the Gangetic regions of central India during the reign of the great Mauryan emperor Ashoka. Buddhism had been well established during this time, with the Indo-Greek king Menander and Ashoka himself acting as important royal propagators of the faith, but it is not until the time of the Kushans in the early centuries CE, almost simultaneously in Gandhara and Mathura in Central India, that images of the Buddha in anthropomorphic form appear.
Gandhara during the Kushan period was a fervent center of Buddhism, with thousands of monasteries sprawled across the wide riverine plains and tucked away in the more remote valleys north of the Kabul River. The demand for images of the Buddha was great and the vast quantity of works in schist and stucco, and to a lesser degree terracotta and bronze, illustrates the rich artistic tradition of the region. The decline of the Kushans, however, precipitated the invasion of the Huns in the middle of the 5th century, and the peace and splendor of Gandhara was destroyed. Those that survived sought refuge in the remote valleys of Swat and the Hindu Kush, where Buddhism quietly endured until the invasion of Muslim forces in the 10th and 11th centuries.
During the 5th - 7th centuries, the period referred to as Post-Gandhara, the production of large Buddhist works in stone and stucco declined, while the creation of smaller scale images in bronze reached a zenith. This phenomenon must be explained in part by the new conditions of Buddhist worship during this time; except for certain sites such as Bamiyan, the large and wealthy monasteries of the previous era had been replaced by smaller, migratory groups of worshippers. The Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang, who traveled to India in the first half of the 7th century, described the situation in Swat as follows: "There had formerly been 1400 monasteries but many of these were now in ruins, and once there had been 18,000 [Buddhist] Brethren but these had gradually decreased until only a few remained" (U. von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, 1981, p. 72). Pushed to the margins of society, the Buddhist adherents could no longer afford to commission large and permanently installed works. Images in stucco were extremely fragile, while works in schist were too heavy to transport. Bronze, on the other hand, was durable, and when scaled down to a small size and cast in several parts, could be bundled up and carried from place to place. Despite the reduced size, the present work would no doubt have been an expensive and precious object of veneration.
Stylistically and iconographically, the present work conforms to the related group of bronzes from the region that have variably been dated to the 5th through 7th centuries. Buddha is shown standing with his right hand in abhayamudra, while the left hangs at his side in a gesture that is intended to represent him holding the folds of his sanghati. The sanghati is draped over both shoulders and forms a distinct V-shape at the chest that is found in many of the late Gandharan bronzes. While some of the late Gandharan bronzes display Gupta-style characteristics, such as stylized drapery folds and a fleshy body type, the present work clearly references classical Gandharan sculpture. The folds of the robe fall in asymmetrical naturalistic pleats and reveal a subtle contrapposto stance and the body's lithe form underneath. Similarly, other bronzes from the region depict the hair in tight curls, an Indian convention that is largely adopted in later Swat, Kashmiri, and Himalayan bronzes. The Gandharan manner is to show wavy locks of hair tied in a topknot - while partially stylized in the current work, it nonetheless references the Gandharan convention. Surprisingly, Buddha is depicted in the present example wearing a simple bracelet on his left wrist; upon leaving the palatial life of his upbringing, Gautama Buddha is said to have relinquished all the finery of his previous lifestyle, including his jewelry. In design, the bracelet appears to resemble a hinged armlet, similar to an example at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (see K. Behrendt, The Art of Gandhara in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, p. 16, cat. no. 11).
The combined nimbus and aureole backplate of the present work is related to the small group of late Gandharan bronzes where the backplate has survived, including two figures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but with an unprecedented flourish of details. Art historians have labeled the unusual radiating spokes as a 'pearl-and-oval' pattern - a lozenge that extends from a single bead and terminates in three beads arranged in a triangle. The exact significance of the shape is unclear, although some have suggested the three beads may relate to the triratna, the 'Three Jewels' of Buddhism - the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha (brotherhood of monks). The form is clearly related to the stucco halos found in niches in the caves of Bamiyan, dated to the late 6th and early 7th centuries, and it is partly through the connection of the two halo types that scholars have dated the corpus of the late Gandhara bronzes. The radiating spokes of the backplate provide a visual dynamism in juxtaposition with the restrained pose of the Buddha and may represent the omnipotence of Buddha's law.
The band of flying geese worked in low relief around the edge of the nimbus and aureole is without precedent in the halos of the late Gandhara bronzes, and it distinguishes the present example as one of the most unusual of the group. The hamsa (goose) is a traditional Indian symbol for the soul, and it represents the notion of reincarnation. The geese are thus an appropriate visual symbol for the Buddhist pursuit of transformation. The hamsa is found in some of the funerary art of Gandhara, including a reliquary in the form of a goose in the British Museum (see W. Zwalf, Gandhara Sculpture in the British Museum, 1985, p. 345, cat. no. 657).
When seen as a repeated motif in a running band, however, the goose motif immediately references the 'Kanishka' casket unearthed at Shah-ji-ki-Dheri in Peshawar, reputedly containing the relics of Kanishka I (see E. Errington and J. Cribb (eds.), Crossroads of Asia, 1992, p. 193, cat. no. 193). While the casket's association with the great monarch has been called into question, it can be said with certainty to have been discovered within the remains of an enormous stupa produced in the Kushan era. The casket depicts images of the Buddha, a Kushan king identified as Kanishka, and several attendant deities, all below a band of flying geese holding wreaths in their mouths. Because the hamsa appears here and elsewhere in a royal context, it has been argued that the Kushan rulers adopted the goose as a royal symbol. While the present work certainly post-dates the Kushan period, it is possible the artist included the band of hamsas as another icon of Buddha's regal status.
The impressive size of the present example coupled with the unusual iconography of the backplate help to further distinguish the bronze amongst an already rare group. Such works would have been carried by itinerant monks as well as traveling merchants across the trade routes of Asia, and the influence of the late Gandhara style can be detected as far away as China, Korea, and Japan.
A highly important and rare silver-inlaid bronze figure of the youthful Buddha, Gandhara or Kashmir, circa 7th century, 19¼ in. (48.9 cm.) high. Estimate $500,000-700,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013
Standing with his left arm raised in a rare mudra, wearing a short dhoti with the pleated tail gently incised, the youthful body sensitively modeled with soft belly, powerful thighs, and fleshy neck, the face with elongated silver-inlaid eyes in a gentle and direct gaze surmounted by a highushnisha, backed by a convergent halo and aureole outlined with an oval-and-pearl pattern, with three crescent moons at the top and upper sides and with an internal border filled with a fruit-laden vine
Provenance: Private collection, Tokyo
Eurasian Art, acquired in 1980
Private Collection, Kyoto, 1980-2004
Private collection, New York, 2004-2013
Notes: The sensuous modeling and rare subject matter of this highly important work of early Indian Buddhist art results from the convergence of post-Gandharan and early Gupta aesthetic ideals that took place in the Kashmiri/Swat Valley region during the 6th - 8th centuries. Expertly crafted during an innovative transitional period, when Gandhara's Hellenistic elements, such as highly modeled musculature, deeply pleated garments, and waving hair loosely gathered in a topknot, were gradually giving way to the supple, fleshy contours, almond eyes, and contemplative grace that characterize Gupta sculpture from North and Central India, the figure is testament to a unique historical moment from which only a small number of bronzes survive.
This sculpture is not only remarkable for its rare historical origins, but also for its large scale and particularly its highly rare subject matter and iconography. The figure depicts the Buddha at the time in his youth when he transitions from childhood to adolescence. Although he displays an adult Buddha's benevolent yet authoritative stance and facial features, here he is clothed only in a child's short dhoti with a simple straight waist and incised pleated tail, as opposed to the longsanghati in which he typically appears as an adult. His left hand forms an extremely rare mudra, in which the palm faces his body and the third finger meets the thumb with the rest of the fingers gently curled inwards, a gesture that appears in a limited number of other bronzes produced in the Swat Valley and Kashmir between the 6th and 8th centuries (see U. von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, 1981, pp. 83, 89, 117, figs. 5I, 8E, and 15 F, G); such comparisons further situate the figure within this region and corroborate a date of circa 7th century. Further Kashmiri/Swat features include the incised brows, heavy-lidded eyes with the lidded area perfectly equal to that of the exposed eye and lower lid, the sophisticated silver inlay in the eyes and urna, rings of beauty encircling the neck, and the supple belly with a quadrant form gently articulated just above the waistband of the dhoti.
The present example shares much in common with a bronze figure of the Infant Buddha in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, dated stylistically to the 5th/6th century (see E. Errington and J. Cribb (eds.), Crossroads of Asia, 1992, pp. 213-214, cat. no. 208). Though the legs are missing in the Art Institute's work, the high ushnisha, hand position (in mirror image), silver-inlaid eyes, and style of dhoti are remarkably similar. The Art Institute's Buddha has a more childish body type, with a slightly shortened torso, less clearly defined upper chest, and a fuller face, possibly indicating that the present work in comparison is meant to depict the Buddha at a slightly later moment in his life.
The convergent aureole and halo backplate behind the standing figure is extremely rare, and its stylistic development can be traced through a limited number of surviving comparables from late Gandhara. Beginning with a 5th-century example published in U. von Schroeder's Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, 2008, p. 79, fig. 3D), the halo and aureole are combined into a single backplate bordered by globular beads, with an extra bead at the point of intersection. Additional 5th/6th century examples (von Schroeder, figs. 4A, 4B, 4C and 4F) reveal that these beads become progressively elongated and then eventually form the "oval and pearl" pattern, a leaf- or flame-like projection with a bead at the base and three beads at the tip (see lot 210 for further discussion of the possible significance of the "oval and pearl" motif). In addition, the present example shows that the internal outline directly around the figure changes from being a single vine to a wider band encompassing an actual fruit-laden vine in the middle. The sole other example presently known with a similar motif is another bronze Buddha figure, circa late 6th century, in which the internal outline is filled with an elaborate floral pattern bordered on either side by pearls (see again U. von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, 1981, p. 76, cat. no. 59, TMMA 1981.188a,b). Such portable bronzes would have been instrumental in the transmission of style and decorative motifs; the vine motif for example draws from 5th-century sculpture from Mathura, in which the halo behind the seated figure has concentric circles filled with floral vines, lotus petals, and radiating spikes (see J. Vogel, "La Sculpture de Mathura," Ars Asiatica, 1930, plate XXXVII a and b, and also M.C. Joshi, et al., The Golden Age of Classical India: The Gupta Empire, pp. 145-151, figs. 8-10).
The exceptional qualities of this sculpture combined with a sensitivity of casting at the peak of a transitional moment in the history of Southern Asian art make this figure of Buddha a masterpiece of bronze figural sculpture from the juncture of the Gandharan and Gupta periods.