Remarkable Buddhist Tantric Bronze Box from Tibet or Laos- The cover with a female figure seated in a relaxed pose with a skull and a vase to her sides. On a rectangular base to the inside a couple making love, possibly Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi amidst various items such as a kapala, a kartika and a ghanta lying on the floor. The top does not fit squarely on the base. A paper label on the inside of the cover. A typewritten note in French to the inside of the cover reading: Cpe: Reserve´pour Mr: NGo Dinh-Bach / Entrepreneur des Traveau Public ``a HAIPHONG Luang.Prabang, le 9 Septembre 1932 / Sa Majesté SISAVANG.VONG / Roi de Luong -Prabang Reserved for Mr. Ngo-Dinh-Bach, public works contractor in Haiphong Luang-Prabang, 9 September 1932 Her Majesty Sisavang-Vong, King of Luang Prabang). The present object was purchased in Holland by the previous owner, from someone who had acquired it in France. An almost identical gilt example was auctioned at Christie's, Amsterdam, on 14 June 1995, lot 127-it was on the cover of the Christie's catalogue. It was from the Loew Collection and came from the sale at the Hotel Druout in Paris on 22/23 December 1958, lot 9. Another closely related example is said to have been auctioned at Nagel in 2016- I personally owned that one many years ago, and sold it to the person who sold it to Nagel. These references to France, as well as the French-language note that the object was intended for a Vietnamese contractor in the flourishing port city of Haiphong, leads one to speculate that it might have been produced in Vietnam while under French domination. This seems all the more probable as numerous stylistic inconsistencies speak against a Tibetan origin. In Indochina, however, the French colonial administration had established art and craft colleges in various places from 1903 onwards in order to preserve the local crafts. Places like the École des arts appliqués de Bien Hoa near Saigon, for example, taught high-level bronze casting. Buddhist figures in Siamese and Khmer styles were made there, but the main production consisted of portraits of beautiful women and older men. Bronze casts were also made at the École des Beaux-arts de Hanoï. Copying models was common practice at these colleges. The academy in Hanoi had sales rooms for members of the Societé coopérative des artistes indochinois. One could well imagine that the king of Luang Prabang visited the academy in Hanoi where he reserved a work as a gift for the public works contractor. A rare and valuable object. ( 6.25"H x 5.5"W - 4.48lbs / 2.030kg ). This one is made far more special than the closely related examples because of the very special provenance and supporting documentation. It is not often you find a piece documented as being given as a gift by a (female?) king.
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