height without stand: 22.5cm, width: 22cm, height with stand: 29.5cm
This exceptionally fine, pierced image of a fantastic makara or sea monster is of gilded (gold-plated) copper alloy. The makara has a long curling snout, a flame-like tongue and a wonderful, elaborate tail - or is emerging from churning water, so that the 'tail' is actually frothing water (Casey et al, 2003, p. 134).
Most probably, it was part of a larger aureole or torana or backing plate on a Tibetan Buddhist altar or a prabhamandala or throneback for a deity. The complexity and fineness of the tail with all its flourishes and scrolls is unusual, suggesting that it has come from a particularly important shine, most likely from a monastery. This type of scrolling might have been meant to symbolise the joy and beauty of the part the buddhahood or enlightenment.
An almost identical pair is illustrated in Casey et al (2003, p. 135). The two are also of the same approximate size as the example here. They are attributed to around the 13th century by the authors , whom show a painting on cloth dated to 14th century Tibet which shows an image of Vairocana, and attendants, seated on a throne with a throneback that incorporates a pair of frilly makaras as elaborate as the example here.
Casey et al (p. 134) comments in respect of the pair, 'The throne to which these fragments must have once belonged thus would have been a massive construction, framing a highly important sculpture. The exuberant portrayal of the spray from which the makaras emerge...are quite without parallel in large Tibetan cast metal temple sculpture.' The same applies in respect of the makara here.
Bromberg (2013, p. 178) and Pal (2003, p. 60) illustrate latter aureole segments but which bare some similarity in technique.
The piece here is in excellent condition. It comes with a custom-made display stand. It is an exuberant and dynamic item of craftsmanship and as such is a particularly fine decorative item with much sculptural as well as historic value.
References: Brauen, M., et al., Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism, Arnoldsche/Rubin Museum of Art, 2009. Bromberg, A., et al., The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas: At the Dallas Museum of Art, Yale University Press, 2013. Casey, J., et al, Divine Presence: Arts of India and the Himalayas, Casa Asia/5 Continents, 2003. Pal, P., Art from the Himalayas & China: Asian Art at the Norton Simon Museum, Yale University Press, 2003.