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Rossi & Rossi to offer possibly the earliest surviving Tibetan mandala at Fine Art Asia, Hong Kong
Vajradhatu Mandala Painting, Tibet, 11th Century AD. Pigment on cotton, 125 x 125 cm (49 ¼ x 49 ¼ in).

LONDON.- Rossi & Rossi announced their participation in Fine Art Asia 2012 in Hong Kong. Committed to the growth of the collecting community in the region, Rossi & Rossi return for their seventh year at the fair, having approached major collectors and sourced remarkable pieces to showcase in Hong Kong. This year the fair sports a dramatic new design and on view in a much expanded booth Rossi & Rossi will be showing a wide range of rare Buddhist and Hindu paintings, sculptures, and ritual objects from China, India, and the Himalayas. Ranging in value from $20,000 to more than $5,000,000, each piece embodies deep religious significance and displays masterful craftsmanship.

Among the highlights is an 11th century Vajradhatu mandala. Possibly the earliest surviving mandala (ritual cosmic diagram) from Tibet, it is a painting of seminal importance in the history of Tibetan art, representing a clear link between 11thcentury Indian painting and formative Tibetan art of the era. The monumental composition (125 x 125 cm) depicts the Buddha Vairocana at the centre of a cosmic palace populated by a neatly distributed, front facing Buddhist pantheon. The piece illustrates the importance of Vairocana in early Tibetan Buddhism. With its compositional simplicity and interacting geometric planes of soft, but vibrant tones, the painting has no iconographic or stylistic parallels, and even calls to mind modern abstract compositions. The Vajradhatu mandala was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago and later at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. It has appeared in a number of publications including those of Dr Prataditya Pal (2003) and Dr Jane Casey Singer (2002).

Also included among the paintings is a fine and delicately painted 13th century Tibetan Portrait of Tashipal, the founder of the Taglung monastery. The piece belongs to a small group of early portraits and it has been published on several occasions, most recently in the Rubin Museum of Art’s Mirrors of the Buddha (2011). Tashipal is represented here surrounded by historic forefathers of the Taglung lineage and their protective deities, all framed within registers of stylized rock caves. To name only a few, the painting features Marpa, the Indian mahasiddha Tilopa, the hermit Milarepa, the Buddha Vajradhara, and the wrathful deity Heruka. Such lineage paintings were important for documenting and communicating the source and doctrinal legitimacy of a Tibetan Buddhist school’s teachings. In addition to its spiritual and aesthetic qualities, this painting is highly significant historically due to the inscription on the reverse. Written within the outline of a stupa, the extensive text provides invaluable documentation, identifying the subject, the donor and his reasons for commissioning the painting. With early portraits rarely found outside of museums or private collections, Rossi & Rossi is pleased to showcase this piece at Fine Art Asia this year.

Of the many exquisite sculptures, Rossi & Rossi present one of the very earliest and most attractive surviving Tibetan sculptures: a monumental 9th century standing Boddhisattva. On stylistic grounds, the piece is a rarity, akin only to a small group of 9thcentury figures kept at Beedo temple in eastern Tibet, and is significantly different from the earlier Lichavvi and later Pala-influenced periods. The figure conforms closely to the seminal descriptions of heroic gods in Sanskrit literature. Its broad shoulders, slender waist and large size encapsulate the idealized male physique, as well as an otherworldly power and grace characteristic of the formative days of Tibetan Buddhist culture. With very few examples surviving from this period, the sheer size and complexity of this 1.1 metre high gilt bronze statue is a testament to the technological ingenuity of Himalayan workshops as early as the 9th century.

Another piece encapsulating the fervent spirit of the times is the early 11th century Manjushri-Yamantaka made by the Newar School. An inscription identifies the statue as a rare wrathful form of the bodhisattva Manjusri: the destroyer of the lord of death. With many arms, Yamantaka carries an arsenal of weapons; with many heads he watches all directions; with many legs he tramples a multitude of demons. After centuries of religious persecution, the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th centuries saw the resurgence of a deep fervour amongst Tibetans for the Buddhist faith. The statue’s complexity, power, and subject matter capture the essential and pioneering spirit of the times. This work has also been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago and later at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

A dark bronze Buddha Sakyamuni dating to the 7th century is a graceful example of the very earliest Kashmiri Buddhist sculpture. Leaving his right shoulder bare, the upper garment drapes across the body of the historical Buddha with finely rendered ribbed folds. Displaying the gesture of teaching, the Buddha sits upon a Kashmiri rectangular throne rarely seen, as it is here, with supporting yaksas and lions both at the front and the rear. Their eyes are inlaid with flecks of silver, as are the Buddha’s and those of the two bodhisattvas that flank him on the flame aureole, which still, remarkably, completes the sculptural ensemble. Such inlaid embellishments testify to the piece’s original importance and suggest a significant patron. With over one hundred monasteries established by the 7th century, Kashmir was one of the most important centres of Buddhism in Asia until Muslim invasion in the 13th century. It is exceedingly rare to find such an early bronze complete with its throne, attendants, and original back plate. Given its quality, size, and condition, the piece is certainly one of the most important bronzes surviving from the period.

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