A mottled red sandstone head of a Jina, India, 11th/12th century CE
sensitively carved in soft mottled red sandstone with heavy-lidded almond-shaped eyes opened in a steady gaze, defined arching brows, pursed lips set in a gentle smile, elongated ears, and tightly curled hair radiates the vital energy of early Kushan sculpture from the Mathura region.
In Jainism, a Tirthankara (Sanskrit: tīrthaṅkara; English: literally a 'ford-maker') is a savior and spiritual teacher of the dharma (righteous path). The word Tirthankara signifies the founder of a tirtha, which is a fordable passage across the sea of interminable births and deaths, the saṃsāra. According to Jains, a Tirthankara is a rare individual who has conquered the saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth, on their own and made a path for others to follow. After understanding the true nature of the Self or soul, the Tīrthaṅkara attains Kevala Jnana (omniscience), and the first Tirthankara refounds Jainism. Tirthankara provides a bridge for others to follow the new teacher from saṃsāra to moksha (liberation).
Mahavira (6th century BCE) was the last Tirthankara to appear. According to tradition, his predecessor, Parshvanatha, lived about 250 years earlier; the other Tirthankaras mentioned in the Jain scriptures cannot be considered historical figures. According to Jain belief, each cosmic age produces its own group of 24 Tirthankaras, the first of whom—if it is an age of descending purity—are giants, but they decrease in stature and appear after shorter intervals of time as the age proceeds.
Condition: Some losses to both ears, and loss to the underside tip of nose, and a few very minor chips on the hair knots, otherwise intact and in very good condition overall. Custom base. A beautiful example.
Dimensions: Height: 8 inches (20.3 cm), mounted height: 12 1/2 inches (31.75)
Provenance: Private NYC collection. Ex. Sotheby's, NYC, November 30, 1982, lot # 254 and Ex. Sotheby's, NYC, December 13, 2005, lot 53.