Lot 250. A Gilt Bronze Figure of an Eleven-Headed Avalokiteshvara, Tibet, 15th-16th century. Estimate US$ 300,000 – $500,000. Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2016
Exquisitely modeled and standing with his two principle hands in front of his chest in anjalimudra and holding various implements in his six radiating hands, including a chakra, lotus blossom and water pot, dressed in a pleated two-tier ankle-length dhoti incised with a floral pattern, adorned with jewelry festoons and an antelope skin draped over the left shoulder, the eleven faces arranged in tiers, each surmounted by a jeweled tiara, the primary head with cascading locks of hair, the face with almond shaped eyes and bow-shaped mouth, the verso with a sealed consecration chamber, richly gilt overall with polychromy remaining - 12 ½ in. (31.75 cm.) high
Provenance: Private West Coast collection by 2010
Literature: Himalayan Art Resources (himalayanart.org), item no.24099
Notes: In Buddhist philosophy, the bodhisattva is a being who postpones his or her own liberation for the sake of ushering others along the path to enlightenment. The figure of Avalokiteshvara in his eleven-headed aspect represents the supreme, highest embodiment of compassion. Buddhist tradition holds that this bodhisattva, seeing the state of many beings throughout the world, was so moved to help alleviate others’ suffering that his single head became a tower of eleven in order to see panoramically, and his two arms multiplied such that he could reach out in all directions. In this superb representation of the Compassionate One, the universal aspiration of a Buddhist deity and the regal status of a prince are united in a single figure that combines spiritual wisdom with worldly authority.
The eleven-headed Avalokiteshvara was an important iconographic figure throughout the Buddhist world over a long duration of time. Masterfully crafted, the present Tibetan example can be compared with others from places as widespread as Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, and East Asia. See a Nepalese example in the collection of LACMA, P. Pal, Art of Nepal, 1885, p.36, fig. 17; a Tibeto-Chinese example at the Pacific Asia Museum, acc.no.1995.20.2; and a closely related Tibetan example in a private collection, HAR item no. 66738.
Christie's. INDIAN, HIMALAYAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIAN WORKS OF ART, 15 March 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza