Cast Brass Elephant inset with Semi-Precious Stones
Tibet or Nepal
length: 15cm, height: 14cm, width: 7.8cm, weight: 839g
This very finely cast brass elephant is probably from Tibet and possibly from Nepal. It has been cast with copious jewels and strands of bells. The cast jewels that decorate the sides of the saddle blanket are inset with actual semi-precious red and green stones and turquoise cabochons (some stones are long missing). The animal’s forehead is inset with a single red stone cabochon. The elephant’s ears and head are wonderfully decorated. The trunk is curled and there are two small tusks. Small human-like genitalia have been cast as well, as have two curious human-like nipples!
The image is mounted on a rectangular dais that has pearled brass edging and is engraved with a lotus petal border.
The body of the elephant is hollow and the top of its back lifts away (it is hinged) to reveal the cavity inside. The top of the cover has a raised area that once supported perhaps a bowl of wish-fulfilling gems, or perhaps an image of Samantabhadra. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, particularly the Nyingma school, it is Samantabhadra who is considered the most primordial Buddha, and he is typically shown astride an elephant. (The Kagyu and Gelug schools use Vajradhara to represent the Primordial Buddha however.) This area is very smooth from and age wear so whatever was in its place was lost long ago and the elephant continued to be venerated.
This image has a superb, golden patina, and a softness to its contours brought about by handling and veneration. It is an excellent piece which dates to the 18th century and possibly before.
Beer, R., The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, Serindia, 2004.
private collection, London.
Inventory no.: 4653