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On display on Level 1

Karnataka, India

Sambhava, the third Jina 12th century Materials & Technique: sculptures, bronze
Dimensions: 48.3 h x 13.0 w x 13.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2013
Accession No: NGA 2013.3956
Provenance:
  • The supplied chain of ownership for this object is being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses.
  • with Dr Joseph Remigius Belmont, Basel, from 1964 or before
  • who sold it to Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, New York, between 1964 and 1966
  • who sold it at Sotheby's auction (lot 114), London, 27 February 1967
  • to a private collector, Brussels, 1967
  • who sold it through art dealership Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch, London
  • to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2013 for USD 700,000

Sambhava (Sambhavanatha) is the third of the twenty-four Jinas, or Tirthankaras (ford makers), revered in the Jain faith of India. Jainism emphasises non-violence, asceticism and truth. Rather than gods, Jinas are humans who have achieved enlightenment and show others the path to liberation through correct spiritual behaviour.

The individual attributes of the Jinas are often described in texts; however, representations are created according to long-established iconographic conventions and rarely display identifying marks. This remarkable sculpture of Sambhava is a rare exception. While it features the prescribed youthful body, long arms, delicate limbs and hair that turns to the right in tight curls common to Jinas, the figure’s elegant double-lotus base is inscribed with a small horse, the known emblem or cognisance of Sambhava. Prayers offered to Sambhava, who is characterised as golden-skinned, are believed to increase happiness.

Sambhava stands in meditation in an austere pose representing the abandonment of the body (kayotsarga). His neck is dramatically marked by a series of concentric circles, an ancient Indian symbol of a great being. Keeping with Jain tradition, Sambhava, who lived in the mythical past, was born into royalty and renounced his princely life for spiritual fulfilment and service to others. His elongated earlobes allude to his earlier privileged life in which his rich jewellery would have included heavy earrings.

Entirely unclothed, the sculpture may have been cast as a focus of faith for the Digambara, or ‘sky clad’ , sect of Jainism, the leaders of which discard all possessions, including clothing. This fine image of Sambhava is the first Jain bronze to be acquired by the Gallery and significantly enriches the Gallery’s small but important collection of Jain art.

Melanie Eastburn Curator, Asian Art


in artonview, issue 76, Summer 2013

Jainism is one of the three world religions to have originated in India, the others being Hinduism and Buddhism. The Jain faith emphasises non-violence, asceticism and truth. Sambhava is the third of the 24 Jinas, or Tirthankaras (ford makers), revered in Jainism. Rather than gods, Jinas are humans who have achieved enlightenment and act to show others the path to liberation through correct spiritual behaviour. While most representations of Jinas are created without identifying attributes, in this rare example the figure’s elegant double lotus base is inscribed with a horse, the emblem of golden-hued Sambhava.

Austere and serene, Sambhava stands in meditation in a pose representing the abandonment of the body (kayotsarga). His long softly-held arms are an established feature of depictions of the Jinas, as are his elongated earlobes and hair that turns to the right in tight curls. The Jina’s neck is dramatically marked by a series of concentric circles, a symbol of a great being. Like most Jinas, Sambhava was born into royalty but renounced his princely life for spiritual fulfilment.

Entirely unclothed, the sculpture may have been cast as a focus of faith for the Digambara or ‘sky clad’ sect of Jainism, the leaders of which discard all possessions, including clothing. The sculpture appears to have been made in the south-west Indian state of Karnataka, a centre for the Digambara sect.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014