A Carved Sandstone Jina

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A Carved Sandstone Jina

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A Carved Sandstone Jina

India, Gujarat

c. 11th/12th century

17 ¼ x 14 x 8 ¼ in. (43.8 x 35.6 x 21 cm.)

Provenance: Sotheby's, New York, 2 June 1992, Lot 72

(original invoice available upon request)

This elegant yet tranquil stone figure depicting a jina, possibly
Rishabhanatha (the traces of long flowing hair) or Mahavira (circa
480-408 BCE), is a superlative example of 11th century Jain sculpture.
Sensuously modeled, the broad shoulders, short neck and narrow waist of
the seated jina demonstrate the powerful the meditative equipoise of the
subject. Also note the fine carving and rendering of the iconographical
details, including the delicately incised individual curls; the tufted
whorls at the nipples; the stylized srivatsa at the center of the chest;
and the foliate motif at the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
This foliate motif is continued at the base cushion, which also depicts
a playful leogryph at center.    

Jain figures depicting jinas are typically recognizable by their
attributes or identifying characteristics. It is possible that the
current work depicts Mahavira, the twenty-fourth and last tirthankara,
due to the lack of identifying features and as he is the most commonly
depicted.

Every inch of this masterwork establishes its level of excellence, the
hem of his lower garment extending between his ankles, his flexed toes
rest above his calves while the line of his tibias course the length of
his lower legs, his hands rest in the attitude of meditation below his
exquisitely modelled ample stomach, his rib cage rises in
iconometrically prescribed diagonals towards his broad chest with the
shrivatsa mark between his smooth pectorals, his arms extend from broad
shoulders, his neck displays the trivali mark, flanked by the
characteristic cubed ends of his pendulous earlobes, his charming face
with a pronounced chin and rounded cheeks either side of an abstracted
nose rising to high arched eyebrows and elegant almond shaped eyes, his
hair in tight curls forming a series of raised nodules enfolding the low
ushnisha and a sigmoid hairline.

Compare the rounded, carved base cushion the current work with a
contemporaneous marble sculpture of a Jain Svetambara Tirthankara in
meditation, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, acc. no. 1992.131; and a
12th Century polished sandstone sculpture of a Jina in the collection of
Dr. David R. Nalin, see Pratapaditya Pal, Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art
from India, Los Angeles, 1994, p. 140, cat. no. 27.

As Key Chapple notes with reference to a similar, later example in the
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the ornate cushion on which he is seated
emphasizes both his status as a revered being as well as his ability to
flourish even after surrendering all attachments (Diamond (ed.), Yoga:
The Art of Transformation, Washington, DC, 2013, pp. 132-5). He sits in
meditation wherein no violence can be envisaged, and meditating on him
in turn diverts the spirit away from earthly desire and affliction and
towards the transcendent (van Alphen, Steps to Liberation, Antwerp,
2000, p.43).

Jainism flourished in Western India between the 10th and 12th centuries,
with many temples commissioned under the Solanki and Later Pratihara
dynasties. The apex of craftsmanship is embodied in the Dilwara temples
on Mount Abu itself. Judging from the piece's size and quality, it would
likely have served as central devotional image of a smaller temple, or
an icon housed in a shrine on the outer perimeter of a larger temple.

Stylistically, this sculpture bears close resemblance in almost all
respects to a Jina attributed to the second half of the 12th century
found in Gujarat and now held in the British Museum (OA 1915.5-15.1),
but the chubbier face and the more naturalistic treatment of the hips
and waistline on the present lot suggest a slightly earlier date of
production. The archaeological record seems to show a general movement
towards greater abstraction in the 12th century. This trend can be
observed by contrasting two standing Jinas from Ladol, Gujarat now in
the Lalbhai Dalpatbhai Museum, Ahmedabad: one an 11th century figure of
Parshvanath (#222), and the other, a figure of Shantinath, dated to 1269
CE (#218, see ibid., pp. 30-1). The former's sigmoid hairline, round
face, ushnisha, earlobes, and waist also compare closely with the
present sculpture. This development is similarly present when
contrasting a Jina attributed to the second half of the 11th century in
the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1992.131) with the aforementioned
example in the Virginia Museum of Arts (2000.98), dated to 1160 CE.

Furthermore, his softly-featured, plump face parallels the attractive
modelling on at least two Hindu marble sculptures from 11th century
Sirohi: one of Brahmani held in the Albert Hall Museum, Jaipur (CMJ
33/65, see Ahuja, The Body in Indian Art and Thought, Brussels, 2013,
no. 149, p. 131) and another, likely of Sarasvati, in the William Price
Collection held in the Amarillo Museum of Art (see N. Rao, Boundaries &
Transformations, Texas, 1998, fig. 17, p. 22), as well as a Vidyadevi of
unknown provenance in the Cleveland Museum of Art (1972.152). Sirohi
sculptures are arguably the most attractive type of the style and
period. With his sweet expression and uplifting face, the present work
is perhaps the most endearing of its kind.

In the Jain religion, there are 24 Jinas, or perfect beings, who fill a
role comparable to that of the Bodhisattva of Buddhism, guiding devoted
believers on the path to liberation from the reincarnation cycle. Some
speculate that the mark appearing on the chest of Jina sculptures is
meant to distinguish them from Buddhas. Depictions of Jinas always show
them in one of two positions: seated in meditation, like this sandstone
version, or standing in kayotsarga, a stance that is unique to the Jain
religion and represents the state of body abandonment.

Comparable A

Comparable B

 

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