Tibetan sculptures of Maitreya in his bodhisattva appearance, standing, are relatively few. The above wears princely jewellery studded with turquoise and lapis lazuli and holds the stem of a lotus that supports one of his attributes: a ritual water pot.
He is the only bodhisattva who may sit with both legs pendent like the historical buddha, his feet resting on a lotus flower fastened to the base. This one holds the stem of blue lotuses that support a water pot (to his left) and a stupa (to his right).
Like Avalokiteshvara, Maitreya sometimes sits at royal ease and may have an antelope skin over his left shoulder (and a water pot in his left hand in Gandharan art), but in this case the stupa on his head clearly identifies him. He is seated on a Nepalese-style lotus base, itself derived from a Nalanda design. The small oval chin and the single hair ornament are also reminiscent of early Nepalese art.
The traditional vajra position is, of course, commonly used to portray Maitreya. On this example, he does the fear-allaying gesture with the right hand while holding the stem of a blue lotus topped with a ritual water pot in the other.
We will note the absence of a crown and jewellery, which is odd. The former may have been lost but there are no physical signs of him ever having had armbands or a necklace, as would be expected. He wears a thin sash with a chased floral motif and a long lower garment incised with a geometrical pattern, his hair is braided and gathered in a tall chignon topped with a floral finial.
15th-16th century, Tibet, Maitreya, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.
Around the 15th century, Chinese-style works often depict him with two large open lotus flowers at shoulder level forming a kind of cross with the attributes they support.