The multi-headed, multi-limbed figure also known as Yamantaka (the destroyer of death) is one of the revered meditation deities of the Gelug lineage of Buddhism.
A notable attraction of this piece is the inscription on the lotus pedestal which is marked and dated daming chenghua jiu nian shiyi yue chu’er ri anxigong shi, corresponding to the second day of the 11th lunar month, the ninth year of emperor Chenghua’s reign, 1473.
The anxigong shi part of the inscription specifies that the bronze figure was bestowed by the Anxi Palace, which Lady Wan Guifei, the favourite imperial consort of Chenghua, later occupied.
A silk embroidery of Buddha from the Anxi Palace, in the collection of the Shanghai Museum, bears an inscription similar to the present figure, but for the seventh year of Chenghua’s reign (1471). It was identified by the museum experts as being commissioned by an imperial consort as a birthday gift for the emperor.
The figure has come from a European private collection and was acquired through the New York dealer Alan Hartman in 1975. It was last at auction almost 120 years ago, in 1904, when it was sold at Drouot from the Gumpel collection.