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Lot 35. An important and rare gilt-copper alloy figure of Shakyamuni Buddha, Khasa Malla, 13th-14th century; 32.3cm (12 3/4in) high. Sold for €508,400 inc. premium. Photo Bonhams.

Heavily cast and richly gilt, seated cross-legged in dhyanasana on a double lotus base, his right hand in bhumisparsha mudra touching the ground, wearing a diaphanous robe with rice grain-patterned borders, elegantly draped over the left shoulder with fish-tail ends and gathering in fan-shaped folds between his legs, his rounded face with wide downcast eyes below high, arched brows, and cusped mouth, flanked by long, slightly curved pendulous earlobes, his hair arranged in tight curls rising to a domed ushnisha, the base plate sealed.

ProvenanceCompagnie de la Chine et des Indes, Paris
An Italian private collection, acquired from the above on 2nd February 2001.

Note: The present lot displays several stylistic features that place it firmly in the workshops of the Khasa Malla Kingdom. Between the 12th and 14th century, the ruling family of the Khasa Mallas reigned over a territory that included large parts of present-day western Nepal and western Tibet. Devout Buddhists, the Khasa Malla rulers were great patrons of the arts. The metal-working tradition that evolved under their patronage shows the strong influence of artists and artistic traditions from Western Tibet, Pala India and the Kathmandu valley, reflecting the syncretic religions and cultures within the Khasa Malla kingdom.

The characteristic features of metal sculptures made in the workshops of the Khasa Malla kingdom were first discussed by Ian Alsop in what he describes as 'the quest for a unified description of what can be called the Khasa Malla style', compare Ian Alsop, 'The Metal Sculpture of the Khasa Malla Kingdom', in Orientations, June, 1994, vol. 25 (6), pp. 61-68, p. 66, and which he saw as a clear adaptation of Kathmandu Valley style, exhibiting Newar stylistic elements. The present large gilt-copper alloy figure of Buddha Shakyamuni is a classic example of the 'Khasa Malla style' as it 'exhibits stylistic characteristics which can be ascribed to various disparate traditions without permitting firm attribution to any one of them', see Ian Alsop, op.cit., p. 63).

With its broad rounded shoulders and fleshy torso, the figure appears quite compact, slightly heavyset with robust almost sturdy physical features, an element that appears in other examples of Shakyamuni Buddhas, see, for example, a gilt-bronze figure of Shakyamuni Buddha, sold in Bonhams Hong Kong, 21 April 2021, lot 20. The physiognomy of his face is defined by distinctive wide-set and open eyes, set below long, arched brows, and his cusped mouth and sharply beak-like nose. His unusually curved earlobes and the exaggerated delineation of the finger joints and knuckles on both sides of the hands and toes are also characteristic of Khasa Malla sculpture. A rather unusual feature that the current buddha shares with the larger Buddha Shakyamuni sold in Bonhams Hong Kong, 21 April 2021, lot 20, is the dhoti which is draped in a fish-tail on his left shoulder. His robe similarly has two triangular-shaped folds layered over of the fan-shaped folds gathered between his legs. A more common feature of Khala Malla sculpture is the lozenge-shaped patterning of the hem of his robe. This most distinctive feature of this Buddha Shakyamuni is the broad, comparatively squat lotus base, with is single row of wide rounded lotus petals below a beaded peal border. The base has a plain and unfinished-looking rear and is covered overall with a matte red pigment, features that typically appear on other lotus bases of Khasa Malla figures.

Bonhams Cornette de Saint-Cyr. CHINESE ART, 13 June 2023, Paris, Avenue Hoche