India, 15th-17th century. Well carved in openwork, the central deity standing in samabhanga on a giant conch shell – the identifying attribute of Neminatha – with beaded decorations, below a lotus canopy, a halo behind his head, surrounded by seated images of the first twenty-three tirthankaras, the base of the conch flanked by two larger deities.
Provenance: From the collection of René Ronveaux (d. 1991), Belgium, acquired in the 1960s and thence by descent in the same family. A copy of a provenance statement, written and signed by the previous owner, dated 16 June 2022, confirming the provenance stated above, accompanies this lot.
Condition: Very good condition overall, commensurate with age. Extensive wear. Some losses, cracks, nicks, and scratches, signs of weathering and erosion, encrustations.
Dimensions: Height 70.8 cm
Neminatha, also known as Nemi and Arishtanemi, is the twenty-second tirthankara (ford-maker) in Jainism. Along with Mahavira, Parshvanatha and Rishabhanatha, Neminatha is one of the twenty-four tirthankaras who attract the most devotional worship among the Jains. He lived 81,000 years before the twenty-third tirthankara Parshvanatha and was the youngest son of king Samudravijaya and queen Shivadevi. Krishna, who was the ninth and last Jain Vasudev, was his first cousin. He was born at Sauripura in the Yadu lineage, like Krishna. His birth date was the fifth day of Shravana Shukla of the Jain calendar. On his wedding day Neminatha heard the cries of animals being killed for the marriage feast. He left marriage, freed the animals and renounced the world to become a monk – a scene found in many Jain artworks. He attained moksha on Girnar Hills near Junagadh, a pilgrimage center for Jains.
Compare a related earlier schist stele of a tirthankara surrounded by twenty-three seated tirthankaras, dated to the late 13th century, in the Norton Simon Museum, accession number F.1975.17.12.S.
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