A gilt-copper figure of Indra, Nepal, 15th century. Photo Sotheby’s
the lustrously gilt and solid-cast figure of Indra seated in rajalilasana, the elaborate crescent-shaped crown inlaid with semi-precious stones and colored glass and secured with a foliate sash inlaid with turquoise, the plaited jatamukata with semi-precious stones, the broad square forehead incised with the horizontal third eye, the eyes downcast and serene, the nose regally curved above the bow-shaped lips, adorned with sumptuous jewelry further inlaid and a diaphanous dhoti secured at the waist with a girdle of colored glass, holding a vajra in the lowered left hand. Height 8 ¼ in., 21 cm. Estimation 100,000 — 150,000 USD
Provenance: Collection of Henry Algernon, Earl Percy (1871-1909), thence by descent.
SOLD BY ORDER OF THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND AND THE TRUSTEES OF THE NORTHUMBERLAND ESTATES
The present work depicting Indra, the King of the Gods in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain mythology, is a superlative example of the Newari sculptural aesthetics of grace. Sensuously modeled and cast in lustrous gilt-copper, Indra is seated in rajalilasana, the posture of royal ease, in regal attire, adorned with a horizontal third eye, magnificent crown and ornamented with semi-precious stones. His extended right arm rests elegantly on his raised right knee.
Indra’s distinctive crescent-shaped crown, square forehead, aquiline nose, powerful and broad shoulders, slim waist and ornate jewelry are all hallmarks of the medieval Newari sculptural tradition. The crown and body ornaments, including the necklace, armlet, rings, girdle and sacred cord, are all inlaid with semi-precious stones.
As Dr. Pratyapadita Pal notes, the representation of Indra seated in rajalilasana is indigenously Nepalese and can be regarded as a local innovation. The posture, crown and jewelry design are all unique features of Nepalese iconographic representations of Indra, the King of the Gods, see Pratapaditya Pal, Asian Art at the Norton Simon Museum: Volume 2: Arts from the Himalayas and China, New Haven and London, 2003, p. 85, pl. 52.
The ubiquitous parable of Indra’s net, a metaphor for the Buddhist principle of pratitya samutpada or co-dependent origination, derives from the seminal Mahayana Buddhist text, the Avatamsaka Sutra. The sutra describes a vast net stretched above King Indra’s palace, adorned with radiant jewels at each intersection which infinitely reflect each another, expressing the interconnected and illusory nature of all phenomena.
The present work hails from the historic collection of the Dukes of Northumberland. This sculpture of Indra was acquired by Henry Algernon, Earl Percy (1871-1909), who traveled extensively at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, particularly in the Near East and North Africa. He published two volumes about his travels in Asiatic Turkey. Percy became Parliamentary Undersecretary for India for the Balfour government in July 1902, and then Undersecretary to the Foreign Secretary Lord Lansdowne the following year.
Handwritten notebooks recording his travels in 1896-1902 survive in the Northumberland archive, along with a number of related photograph albums. Also surviving are numerous handwritten notebooks and papers which provide comment and context on political situations in various countries and regions including India, Afghanistan, China, Tibet, Siam, Egypt, Congo, Macedonia and Africa.
Himalayan Art Resources item no. 12854.
Sotheby’s. Images of Enlightenment: Devotional Works of Art and Paintings, New York | 17 sept. 2014, 10:00 AM