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It's nearly time for Asia Week in New York

— March 2015

Associated media

White Tara, gilt copper alloy Tibeto Chinese late Yuan/early Ming late 14th century, 15cm, to be sold by Robert Bigler,

Friday, 13 March  through Sunday, 22 March

‘Before Yongle – Chinese and Tibeto-ChineseBuddhist Sculpture of the 13th and 14th Centuries’

After 15 years of research, this exhibition aims to bring new lightinto a somewhat obscure period of Buddhist art; it is hoped that the journeyinto this ‘terra incognita’, which has only just begun, will bring new insight intothe art historical development of a long neglected group of religious works of art.  It is, in fact, the first time that this many such objects fromthe Yuan period will be exhibited together as a group.
Dr Robert R. Bigler

The past decade has witnessed an increasing interest in the field of Tibeto-Chinese Buddhist art. Especially the gilt metal icons produced in the Chinese imperial workshops of the early Ming period at the beginning of the 15th century, which have become the focus of attention and are much in demand by collectors all over the world.

During  ASIA WEEK in New York – beginning Friday 13 March 13, and on view through  Sunday 22 March– Dr Robert R. Bigler   will present a group of religious works of art created in China and the Himalayas during the Yuan and early Ming period (c.1260–1400 AD).

‘Before Yongle – Chinese and Tibeto-ChineseBuddhist Sculpture of the 13th and 14th Centuries’ comprises 32 important artworks, of which 28 are sculptures: 6 Himalayan, 9 in the Chinese style and 13 Nepalo- and Tibeto-Chinese. Dr Bigler says that of all the figures on view in the exhibition, the 20 Buddhist metal images which can be attributed to the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368) are the largest group of sculptures from this period ever to be shown in public – most of them on display for the first time.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue, which reflects 15 years of research, discussing the art-historical development of metal sculpture in the ‘Tibeto-Chinese’ style; these images, based on the Vajrayana Buddhism originating from Tibet, were produced in workshops in China.

The statues created by imperial command during the Yongle (1403–24) and Xuande (1426–35) reigns are famous for their flawless casting, their rich gilding and superb execution of every detail. They share the highest level of quality and are immediately recognizable by their specific style.

While these Buddhist images from the early 15th century and Ming Dynasty are well documented and can be accurately dated by the six-character reign mark they usually bear, much less is known about their predecessors. Although it would seem logical that icons in such a refined style could not have appeared suddenly and ‘ex nihilo’, only very few sculptures from the preceding Yuan period have in fact been identified so far.

Khubilai Khan (1215–94) adopted the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and declared Vajrayana as the state religion when he ascended to the Chinese imperial throne. That at least suggests that a large number of Buddhist sculptures in a new style must have been produced under imperial patronage of the Mongols to promote the foreign faith in China. This resulted in the birth of the so-called ‘Tibeto-Chinese’ style which was later further developed at the beginning of the Ming dynasty.

The stand will feature a 14th-century Vajravarahi, a Buddha Shakyamuni of gilt copper alloy, a Nepalo-Chinese sculpture dating to the early 14th century, a Tibeto-Chinese Yuan made of gilt copper alloy, and a Chinese Yuan Seated Bodhisattva, from about the first half of the 14th century, made of dark patinated copper alloy.

This is a great opportunity to see some rare and interesting works of art.

See our Perspectives piece on 'The rise of the Chinese art market', June 2011.

To read  this and the rest of Cassone free of charge, follow this link.

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