Tibet, various mahasiddhas (9)

15th-16th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha Catrapa, bronze (copper alloy), at the Power House Museum in Sydney (Australia).

Adorned with large hoops and floral jewellery (an anti-caste symbol), the great tantric practitioner Catrapa is identified by the manuscript in his left hand. His right hand does the teaching gesture.

Undated, Siddha Dombi Heruka, Tibet, metal, at the Capital Museum in Beijing (China).

Mahasiddha Dompi Heruka, formerly King Cakravarman (Kashmir, 10th century AD), rides a pregnant tigress and is normally accompanied by his consort. He wears bone jewellery and has a skull in his headdress.

His attributes are a snake held like a lasso and a skull cup.

The above also wears snakes around his ankles and a dhoti incised with a floral motif. An inscription on the base bears his name.

Undated, Tibet, Mahasiddha Luipa, wood, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (USA).

Luipa, Master of Secrets, is identified by the fish gut he is eating. He sits on a deer skin over a thick cushion, a female attendant to his left, a large fish to his right.

Undated (15th-16th century), Central Tibet, Tsang, Mahasiddha Naropa, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Naropa often holds a human hide stretched across hiss back.

Undated (circa 15th century), Central Tibet, Tsang district, Mahasiddha Virupa, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Virupa may be depicted with various hand positions. This standard image shows him leaning on one hand while pointing to the Sun with the other, his head facing the viewer.

18th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha Virupa, gilt copper alloy, at the Honolulu Museum of Art (Haiwai).

He usually sits at ease on a animal skin. On this example, the head of the animal is placed to his right, as is often the case with later sculptures.

Undated, Mahasiddha Virupa, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Moke Mokotoff, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

A rare work, with his face sideways. He sits on an antelope skin and wears a meditation strap, floral jewellery and a garland of flowers. There is a skull cup in his left hand.

Undated (circa 16th century), Central Tibet, Tsang, Mahasiddha Virupa, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

On occasions his hands do the ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘ gesture. The above lotus base has an unusual top row of incised petals with three lobes, plus a standard row of plump elongated petals, thick beading and a plinth with a Tibetan inscription on it.

Late 16th or early 17th century, Central Tibet, Tsang, Mahasiddha, silver with turquoise inlay, at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City (USA).

This unidentified Indian adept is adorned with a five-skull crown, bone jewellery, a bone cross-belt with pendants, a celestial scarf forming a frame around his head and shoulders. The right hand does a pointing gesture, the gesture of the left hand is used to bestow patience (tip of the middle finger against the tip of the thumb).

 

 

 

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Tibet, various dakinis

15th-16th century, Tibet, Kurukulla, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Kurukulla is a tantric meditational deity with a dakini appearance (naked, standing on one leg, adorned with wrathful ornaments). She has one head and two to eight arms.

The above has four arms and holds a bow and arrow in the upper left hand, the stem of a plant in the lower one. Her upper right hand does the ‘fingers crossed’ gesture, the lower one holds an elephant goad ( vajra hook).

18th century, Tibet (or Tibeto-Chinese?), Kurukulla, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Prima Porta Antiquities.

A more modern work with the same iconography but Chinese-style features and accessories.

13th century, probably Tibet, dakini Chandali, metal with gilding and pigments, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Chandali normally holds a wheel (cakra) and a plough, or a corpse and a heart. This dakini holds an axe in her left hand and another object, possibly a vajra sceptre, in her right hand.

13th century, probably Tibet, dakini Gauri, gilt metal with pigments, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Gauri holds a fish in her left hand and a flaying knife in the other.

16th-17th century, Central Tibet, dakini, bronze (copper alloy), at the Patan Museum.

Possibly Vajrayogini, the above holds a skull cup and a flaying knife.

Undated (15th-16th century?), Tibet, Tsang province, Machig Labdron, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This historical female teacher is normally depicted as a wisdom dakini, with one head and three eyes, two hands in which she holds a drum and a bell, two legs in a dancing posture, adorned with a five-leaf crown, bone  jewellery and a beaded belt or bone apron. Apart from adding a garland of skulls, the artist has made an interesting use of the celestial scarf on this example, using it as a frame and a support for her right knee.

A view of the back shows that she wears both a cross belt and a bone apron.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Machig Labdron, silver on a gilt copper alloy base, stone inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The same character in a seated position, with three eyes, the same attributes and richly stone-inlaid gilt jewellery (most stones now missing).

 

Tibet, Vasudhara (2)

17th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Buddha Collectors.

This female deity, more popular in Nepal than in Tibet, has a one-head and two-hand form, in which case she normally displays the gesture of generosity and holds a tuft or rice and a vase full of jewels (in her right hand on this Pala revival example).

18th century, Tibet, Vasudhara, gilt bronze (copper alloy) and stone inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

She may also have one or two heads and six hands. The upper right hand makes a gesture related to music, the lower right hand is open palm (gesture of generosity) and may hold a fruit, the middle right hand holds raining jewels, the left hands hold a long-life vase, a sheaf of rice and the Prajnaparamita sutra (the manuscript in her top hand).

Undated, Tibet, Vasudhara, gilt copper alloy, cold gold and pigment, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, Tibet, Vasudhara, gilt copper alloy, cold gold and pigment, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Tibet, Ushnishavijaya (6)

17th century, Tibet, Ushnishavijaya, gilt bornze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Michaan’s.

Ushnishavijaya in her three-head and eight-hand form. Each head has three eyes, all the hair is gathered into a knot topped with a jewel. Her attributes are missing. The standard ones in Tibet are a visvajra (held between her main hands at heart level), a long life vase (in her lower left hand), a bow (middle left hand), an effigy of Amitabha (top right hand), and an arrow or a vajra sceptre (middle right hand). The lower right hand is held in the gesture of supreme generosity. The upper left hand does the fear-allaying gesture and may hold a lasso.

18th century, Eastern Tibet, Ushnishavijaya, parcel gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Koller.

We have seen before that (relatively) recent works often depart from traditional iconography: in her three-head form, this deity always has eight hands, yet the above has three heads but only six hands. She may have held a visvajra in her top right hand, while the effigy of Amitabha would have been on a lotus in one of the lower hands.

A view of the back shows that there is no broken limb.

18th century, Tibet, Ushnishavijaya, parcel gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

On this Chinese-style image with eight hands she still has the visvajra and the long-life vase.

 

Tibet, Prajnaparamita (2)

12th century, Western Tibet, Prajnaparamita, brass, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Both a bodhisattva and the mother of all buddhas, Prajnaparamita has one head and two or four hands. Her main attribute is a manuscript. She may be seated or standing. This sculpture belongs to a group of West Tibetan brass works derived from the Indian Pala style but with features specific to Western Tibet, especially the Ngari district.

In her four-hand version she may hold the manuscript in her top left hand and a vajra sceptre in one of her right hands while the remaining ones display the gesture of debate/teaching and the gesture of meditation.

Her accessories are decorated with incisions and her lower garment with a stippled lotus pattern.

14th-15th century, Tibet, gilt copper, Tara or Prajnaparamita, private collection, photo by Koller.

Another of her attributes is the blue lotus (top left hand) but she normally holds two, both topped with a manuscript. She may also hold a vajra sceptre (lower left hand) and display the teaching gesture (lower left hand), in which case one hand would display the meditation gesture, hence the uncertainty about the identity of this figure.

15th century, Tibet, Prajnaparamita, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, on loan at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (USA).

When two of the hands ‘turn the wheel of dharma‘ the other two usually hold the stem of blue lotuses each topped with a manuscript. When the lower hands are cupped in the meditation gesture to hold a vase, the upper ones hold a vajra sceptre and the manuscript. Here we have a mixture of hand positions and the long-life vase is at the centre of the lion throne that supports the double-lotus base. There is a vajra finial on her head.

Tibet, Green Tara (10)

16th century, Tibet, Tara, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Green Tara, framed by two open lotuses, her right hand displaying generosity, the left one bestowing refuge, wears a long garment partly draped over the base.

16th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

A similar iconography with blue (closed) lotuses on each side.

16th century, Tibet, Tara, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

A blue lotus to her right, a fully-open (white, pink or red on paintings) lotus to her left, this one does the debate or teaching gesture with her left hand. She wears an incised dhoti held in place with a beaded belt.

16th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Astamangala Gallery.

A variant, with the blue lotus to her left.

16th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonham’s.

This sculpture depicts her with left hand doing the refuge-giving gesture.

Note the ring on her finger, a tradition from Nepal.

She has an effigy of Amitabha on her chignon.

Her lower garment consists of two layers of fine cloth, both decorated with a very elegant border, one incised with scrolls, the other with a geometrical pattern, held in place with a beaded belt with raining jewel pendants typical of the Nepalese Malla period.

The small figure at the front of the lotus base is Vaishravana, who sits on a snow lion and holds a parasol.

 

Tibet, Green Tara (9)

14th-15th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Green Tara, her right leg unfolded,  the stem of a lotus fastened to her left arm…

… adorned with beaded jewellery inlaid with turquoise, her thin shawl and lower garment decorated with a stippled pattern, the palm of her hands incised with a lotus within a lozenge (diamond).

15th century, Tibet or Nepal, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy and stones, private collection, photo by Hayman Himalayan Art.

Unlike the white form, Green Tara only has two eyes.  The protuberance on her forehead is a raised urna, rectangular in this case.

15th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Lempertz.

Except when she does the dharmacakra mudra, the position of her right hand is always  the same and it expresses generosity. The left hand may be  held with the tip of the forefinger touching that of the thumb, in a gesture that means debate or teaching (vitarka mudra).

15th-16th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper alloy, pigments, stones, private collection, published on http://www.auctionata.com.

Her left foot always rests on a lotus fastened to the rim of the base.

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper alloy with glass inlay, private collection, photo by Koller.

The round urna on this one is closer in aspect to the curly hair which the historical buddha is said to have had on his forehead – not to be confused with a third eye, which in Himalayan art always is always elongated and placed vertically (see White Tara).

Late 16th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper alloy with glass inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Green Tara may do a gesture to ward off evil with her left hand (the tip of the middle finger touches that of the thumb, the ring finger is folded next to it).

18th century, Tibet, Tara, gilt copper with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

She may also bestow refuge (tips of ring finger and thumb pressed together).