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This very finely cast temple oil statue lamp was commissioned and donated to a temple in the Kathmandu Valley almost certainly by an aristocratic donor. The casting work is typical of finer work that was done in Patan undertaken by Newari craftsmen.
It is a type of statue lamp used by the Newars and is called a shali dalus. Such lamps were used to offer light to goddesses at temples. The reverse has two loops for the index and middle fingers to allow the lamp to be held from the hand and swayed in front of the images of the goddesses.
The example here shows a figure clad in traditional Newar attire resting on one knee and with the other up, and with his hands folded before him in a namaste greeting.
The backplate comprises multiple foliage branches that support five separate shallow dishes each of which was to accommodate oil and a wick.
A related image, in gilt copper, of a female donor is in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (IM 371-1914) and is illustrated in Heller (2009). This example is attributed to the Shah period, late 18th/early 19th century. Another example, dated 1882, is in the Denver Art Museum (see Lanius & Otsuka, 2007, for an illustration.)
Overall, this is a fine example and is finely cast. It has a wonderfully rich chocolate patina.
Gabriel, H., Jewelry of Nepal, Thames & Hudson, 1999.
Heller, A., ‘Tibetan Buddhist Sculptures in the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery’, in Orientations, May 2009.
Lanius, M.C. & R.Y. Otsuka, ‘History of the Asian art collection at the Denver Art Museum’, in Arts of Asia, January-February 2007.
Macdonald, A.W. & A. Vergati Stahl, Newar Art, Aris & Phillips Ltd, 1979.
Pal, P., Art of Nepal, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1985.