Lot 105. Two very rare gilt-copper alloy figures from a set of eight Asvapati, the equestrian retinue of Vaishravana, Tibet, 15th century. the taller 20.4 cm, 8 in. Estimate 50,000 — 250,000 GBP. Lot sold 250,000 GBP (323,025 USD). Courtesy Sotheby's.
one equestrian deity, possibly Manibhadra or Jambhala, holding a flaming jewel in his raised right hand, and a mongoose in the left spitting gems and auspicious emblems, wearing regal belted robes, boots and crown, and seated astride a caparisoned cloud-borne horse on a lotus pedestal: the pair, possibly depicting Samjneya, Atavaka or Kubera, with his right hand raised to hold a now missing sword or lance, a mongoose in the left hand spitting gems and auspicious emblems, wearing robes, boots and crown and a breastplate bearing a kirtimukha mask, with lion masks at the shoulders, and seated astride a caparisoned cloud-borne horse on a lotus pedestal.
Himalayan Art Resources item nos. 13672 and 13673.
Note: The deities represent two of the Eight Lords of the Horse, ashvapati, in the retinue of Vaishravana, the god of wealth and good fortune and protector of Buddhist teachings. Each carries a mongoose, Vaishravana’s principal attribute, symbolising prosperity and generosity. Vaishravana retinue deities are generally perceived as equestrian warrior lords riding through cloud filled skies, indicated here by the clouds beneath the horses’ hooves: for a fifteenth century Tibetan thangka of Vaishravana and retinue set entirely against a background of sky and clouds, see Steven Kossak and Jane Casey Singer, Sacred Visions, New York, 1998, p. 186, cat. no. 53: see also iconographic depictions from the Mongolian kanjur in Lokesh Chandra, Buddhist Iconography, Delhi, 1991, p. 128-31, pls. 214-23: and Jeff Watt, www.himalayanart.org, set 3386.
Another from this set of finely cast and gilded equestrian figures, depicting Purnabhadra and now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is published in Heather Stoddard (Karmay), Early Sino-Tibetan Art, Warminster, 1975, p. 96, pl. 68. Stoddard included the bronze in her seminal work to illustrate the influence of the early Ming in later fifteenth century Tibetan sculpture, ibid, p. 95. Compare the style of the lotus petals on the pedestal, the predominance of turquoise for the inset jewellery, the style of engraved textile designs and the bearing of the animal mount in the Rietberg museum’s Tibetan fifteenth century gilt copper Guhyamanjuvajra riding a snow lion, see Helmut Uhlig, On the Path to Enlightenment, Zurich, 1995, p. 170, cat. no. 113: and compare the lotus pedestal, turquoise jewellery and sculptural finesse of a Tibetan fifteenth century gilt copper Vajrabhairava in the Potala, Lhasa, see Ulrich von Schroeder, Buddhist Bronzes in Tibet, Hong Kong, 2001, Vol II, p. 1051, pl. 265C.