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Rossi & Rossi is delighted to be exhibiting Buddhist Bronzes from the Sandor P Fuss Collection in New York at the Neuhoff Gallery, Fuller Building, 41 East 57th Street from Monday 19 to Tuesday 27 March 2007. Undoubtedly one of finest private collections of Buddhist sculpture of a quality rarely seen outside museum walls, the Fuss collection comprises 23 exquisite bronzes from India and Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet and Mongolia, dating from the 7th to the 18th centuries, and will be shown alongside Tibetan Encounters: Contemporary meets Tradition, an exhibition of Tibetan art both old and new (see separate press release). The exhibitions coincide with Asia Week which also includes major auctions and the International Asian Art Fair.
In Buddhism, works of art often serve as a focus for meditation and the very act of producing or commissioning an artwork accumulates merit and would bring the practitioner closer to achieving nirvana or enlightenment, which ends the cycle of birth, death and reincarnation. All the sculptures in the Fuss collection are made of gilt copper and produced using to the lost-wax technique.
One of the highlights of the collection is a superb 14th century Central Tibetan image of Vasudhara, possibly from Densatil (fig. 1). She is seated in lalitasana (position of royal ease) and can be clearly identified by her six arms, displaying characteristic mudras (hand gestures) and attributes: in her lower left hand she holds the treasure vase, the hand above holds a rice bundle and the third left hand holds a book, the prajnaparamita sutra. Her small and tender smile, fine nose, plump cheeks, elaborate ornaments and sumptuous garment resemble copper repoussé images from Densatil, a Kagyu establishment founded in the 12th century. During the 14th and 15th centuries it was generously patronised by the Lang family, who then ruled this region.
A large and unusual Khasa Malla sculpture of Sadakshari Lokeshvara dates from the 13th/14th century and is a fine example of the fine metal working tradition of the Khasa Malla kingdom, a tradition notable for its brief efflorescence (fig. 2). Although mystery still surrounds the dynasty, its sculptural tradition can easily be identified by certain stylistic characteristics. This four-armed Avalokiteshvara, the most popular bodhisattva (attendant of the Buddha) in the Tibetan pantheon, is typical of that tradition with an odd emphasis on finger joints, red paint on the back of the base, covering the rather roughly finished and ungilded rear of the lotus, black paint covering the ungilded hair and emphatic beading at the top and bottom rims of the base. Its extraordinary size (it is one of the largest Khasa Malla sculptures known), luxury and elaboration of the figure may indicate that it was a royal commission.
A 13th century figure is a particularly fine example of a classic type of Nepalese sculpture representing the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara as Padmapani, the Lotus Bearer, in his simplest form (fig. 3). The embodiment of compassion and grace, he is continuously engaged in helping humanity toward the path of enlightenment. The enchantment of this sculpture lies in its poise and perfect balance. Padmapani is standing in elegant tribhanga with his hips swung gently to the left. His left arm, with the hand extended in the vitarka mudra follows the curve of his body; with his raised right hand he forms the abhaya mudra. The modelling of this figure reflects a penchant for supple, fleshy volumes and smooth, subtle surfaces. His face shows a countenance both benevolent and divine; a small mouth with finely outlined lips, a straight nose, delicate almond-shaped eyes that are slightly downcast, and arched eyebrows in relief. The bodhisattva is wearing a diaphanous dhoti stippled with stylised rosettes and secured by a jewelled belt. His body is adorned with elaborate jewellery – foliate armlets, anklets, a jewelled collar and large earrings. He wears a crown with fluttering sashes and large central leaf ornamented with a Buddhist wheel and his hair arranged in a tall conical topknot. This majestic bronze combines fine detail with a remarkable mastery of sculptural form, demonstrating the virtuosity of Nepalese artists of this period.
An outstanding 16th century sculpture portrays lama Sonam Lhundrup with the sense of gravity expected of a Buddhist hierarch (fig. 4). His face bears an intense yet serene expression and his silver-inlaid eyes have powerful gaze. Seated on a double lotus throne, he is wearing the characteristic sleeveless monastic garment, tied with a sash above his portly stomach, inlaid with silver and copper flowers and incised with elaborate motifs. His outer robe is ornamented with the eight auspicious symbols and five large Lhantsa characters on the back. The stylistic characteristics of this monumental bronze – the thinly cast fine metal alloy inlaid with silver and copper, asymmetrical construction of the garment, and double lotus throne set within two rims decorated with a row of thick pearls – are typical for a Central Tibetan origin in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Mongolian bronzes in the Fuss collection were all produced by the school of Zanabazar – they are of unsurpassed quality and the largest collection of bronzes outside Mongolia. Zanabazar (1635-1723), a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, was an inspirational figure, remarkable as a monk, artist and engineer. He became the religious ruler of Mongolia and had a great influence on religious, social and political affairs and significantly contributed to the development of the arts in the country. It is rare for artists to be identified in Buddhist art and undoubtedly Zanabazar was one of the greatest. He was highly skilful in bronze casting and his long and prolific career exemplifies a cultural movement that swept over Mongolia, Tibet and the Manchu court of China.
Yama, King of the Dead, stands in the archer
pose (pratyalidhasana) with his right leg bent and his left leg
extended (fig. 5). He holds both his arms outstretched
with his hands in the gesture of menace (tarjani mudra).
He is represented with a bull’s head, third eye, tantric crown, hair rising
in a flame shape, and is naked but for a belt of severed heads and elaborate
jewellery. On his breast is an ornament representing the Buddhist wheel,
his distinctive mark, for Tsong Khapa appointed Yama as a protector of
the Gelukpa sect. Yama was subjugated and turned into a protector of the
Dharma (Buddhist teachings). The origin
of the bull head is ascribed to the tradition, which speaks of an ascetic
who was attaining the final stage of nirvana after a successful meditation
period of nearly fifty years. As he was about
to achieve his objective, two thieves with a stolen bull entered the cave
and slaughtered it. When they saw the ascetic, a witness to their crime,
they beheaded him too. To their
astonishment, the victim lifted the head of the bull and, replacing his own severed head with it, became the ferocious form of Yama. He devoured the two thieves and his rage threatened to destroy the whole of Tibet. The Tibetans called upon Manjushri, their tutelary deity, who subjugated Yama after a fearful struggle and made him a protector of the Dharma.
Another exceptional bronze shows the same exquisite gilding and sensibility towards the female form that is typical of the best Mongolian sculpture and of Zanabazar and his school. It depicts Machig Labdrön, one of the most important and popular female yoginis of Tibet, an extremely rare subject in Mongolia. The yogini is seated with her damaru or hand drum in her right hand and a skull cup in the left. Her tantric jewellery – skull crown and bone aprons, necklaces and anklets – is decorated with Buddhist wheels and sun and crescent moon motifs, a Buddhist wheel also tops her elegant chignon. The teachings of Machig Labdrön and her guru first formed the basis of a separate peacemaking order but later became accepted in all Tibetan orders.
This exhibition represents the fruits of twenty years’ collecting in the field of Himalayan art. Sandor Fuss’s attraction to Buddhist sculpture started in his teens with his first visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where he was fascinated by the Asian art display. He quickly fell in love with the sculptures from Tibet and Nepal and it was soon after this experience that he acquired his first sculpture. The collection took years to build and his passion for Himalayan art never wavered. The group presented here is the realisation of his long-held dream to put together a world-class collection of Buddhist sculpture. Now other collectors will have the opportunity to share his enthusiasm.
Exhibition dates: 19 to 27 March 2007
Location: Neuhoff Gallery, 4th Floor, Fuller Building, 41 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022. Tel. +1 212 838 1122
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 10 am to 6 pm
Sunday 12 noon to 5 pm
For further information or images please contact:
Sue Bond Public Relations
Hollow Lane Farmhouse, Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP31 3RQ, UK
Tel. +44 (0)1359 271085 Fax. +44 (0)1359 271934
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