Nepal, Avalokiteshvara (7)

12th-13th century, Nepal, Padmapani (Avalokiteshvara), bronze with turquoise inlay, private collection, photo on Hardt

In Nepal this form of Avalokiteshvara rarely has the skin of an antelope over his left shoulder, and on many occasions there is no effigy of Amitabha in his headdress either. The above is therefore identified by the roundish eight-petal lotus in his left hand and the position of his right hand (in this case in the gesture of supreme generosity).

Circa 1250, Nepal, Padmapani (Avalokiteshvara), black stone, private collection, photo on Catawiki .

A singular stone example, with a more realistic lotus, an effigy of Amitabha at the front of his single-leaf tiara, serpentine armbands typical of early Nepalese works, and an unusual hairstyle.

13th century, Nepal, Padmapani Lokeshvara, gilt copper, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 19680 lot 718, and on Himalayan Art Resources (dated 14th century).

During the Malla period, portable metal sculptures are richly gilt and inlaid with gems, lotuses have well-defined multi-layered petals and a raised heart, crowns are more elaborate and usually have a small Kirtimukha at the front, with vegetation coming out of its mouth and a separate leaf on each side.

Circa 17th century, Nepal, Padmapani, stone, private collection, photo on Cornette de Saint Cyr .

18th century, Nepal, Padmapani Lokeshvara, wood with stone inlay, private collection, photo on Hardt .

Tibet, peaceful Vajrapani (5)

Undated, Tibet, Vajrapani, (brass with cold gold), photo on HAR , at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi (India).

Vajrapani, the bodhisattva form of Akshobhya, stands on a Pala-style lotus base, his left hand placed on his hip, the other holding an upright vajra sceptre before his heart. He wears a short dhoti decorated with incisions and a stippled pattern, a celestial scarf, a low three-leaf crown, large earrings (one is missing), beaded jewellery, and a sacred cord.

13th century or earlier, Tibet, Vajrapani (labelled ‘Tara’), bronze, private collection, photo on Woolley & Wallis .

When seated in a relaxed manner he often leans on his left hand while holding the stem of a lotus that raises from the base, and holds his main attribute in his right hand.

13th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, copper alloy with traces of gilding, item 91.522 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (USA).

The vajra sceptre may be held before his heart as on the previous picture, or to his right side, as above.

15th century, Tibet, Vajrapani (one of ‘two protective divinities for travelling’), gilt bronze, private collection, photo on De Baecque .

One of two sculptures from the same atelier. This one features Vajrapani seated with his legs locked, his vajra sceptre in the right hand, upright before his heart, his left hand cupped against his hip to hold a vajra bell not visible here.

Tibet, Chitipati

18th century, Tibet, dancing skeleton couple, (gilt) copper, private collection, photo on HAR .

The couple of skeletons known as citipati/chitipati have three functions in Tibetan art. On paintings they represent the lords of the charnel fields. In sculpture they may represent a father-mother couple, but they are also used as a decoration, for instance on bone aprons used in cham dancing. The above adorn a trumpet stand. They wear a skirt-like garment, a cloud-shaped cape, a five-skull crown with colourful side bows, and have a half-vajra finial on their head.

18th century, Tibet, (Shri) Shmashana Adhipati, terracotta (with pigments), Wellcome Collection, photo Wellcome collection .

When representing the father-mother entity, Shri Shma holds a skull cup and wields a skull-tipped staff, Shana Adhipat may hold a stalk of grain in her right hand and a long-life vase in the other. They have a third eye, a curled tongue, bared fangs, and they stand in a dn

18th century, (Tibet or Nepal?), Chitipati, stone (and pigments), private collection, photo on HAR .

On this example she holds the same attributes as him.

18th century, Tibet, citipati, gilt copper, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

This single skeleton, possibly an altar ornament, holds a conch shell.

You may also like to read this link about engraved skulls on asianart.com .

Tibet, hierarchs (5)

17th century, Tibet, Fifth Sharmapa (Shamarpa), silver with pigments, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s .

A rare silver sculpture of the 5th shamarpa, Konchog Yanlag (see biographical notes on shamarpa.org, and the shamarpa page on HAR ), seated on a square cushion, his right hand over his knee, the left hand in the gesture of meditation and holding a large flaming jewel, his head covered with the distinctive red lotus hat of the shamarpas, with a jewel emblem at the front , or sometimes a visvajra,  a crescent moon+sun disc at the top, a cloud pattern at the sides, always trailing towards the back.

Circa 15th-16th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper (alloy?), private collection, photo on lot-art .

18th century, Tibet, lama, bronze, private collectin, photo on Hardt .

14th century, Tibet, karmapa 3, Rangjung Dorje, gilt bronze with silver inlay, private collection, photo on Navin Kumar Gallery .

The karmapa hat is black, with a visvajra symbol at the front, a crescent moon+sun disc at the top, a cloud pattern at the sides, trailing towards the front.

17th-18th century, Tibet, The First Panchen Lama, Lobzang Chokyi Gyaltsen, gilt copper alloy and cold gold, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s as before, lot 310.

18th century, Changkya Rolpai Dorje, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s as before, lot 339.

See biographical notes on the third changkya, Rolpai Dorje, on Treasury of Lives .

17th century, Tibet, Dalai Lama 5, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, photo 50751 on the Huntington Archive .

The fifth dalai lama holds the stem of a lotus that supports the effigy of a teacher.

18th century, Tibet, Dalai Lama 3, Sonam Gyatso, metal (silver or silver alloy with traces of cold gold), photo on HAR , at the Palace Museum in Beijing (China).

The lama’s right hand is in the gesture of debate, the other in the gesture of meditation.

Pala India, Tara

11th century, Northern India, Tara, stone with painted face and hair, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources .

The cold gold and blue mineral pigment highlight the effigy of Amitabha on this Green Tara’s head as well as her hair tied on one side. She is adorned with a small tiara with rosettes, large hoops, and has a small round urna on her forehead. She holds the stem of a blue/night lotus (utpala) in her left hand while the other makes the gesture of supreme generosity. This form of Tara always sits with a leg pendent.

Circa 12th century, India, Tara, bronze (copper alloy), at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (USA).

Tara, flanked by Pala-style lotuses, her hair arranged in four coils piled high and held together with four foliate ornaments that match the three leaves on her headdress. The  small rim below the lower row of petals on the lotus base probably fitted into a larger pedestal that may have included other figures.

Tibet, Ushnishavijaya (9)

16th century, Tibet, Tsang province atelier, Ushnishavijaya, metal (brass with silver inlay), private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources .

Always seated with her legs locked, the ‘Victorious Goddess of the Ushnisha’ is depicted here in her popular three-head and eight-arm form. Her lower right hand is always in the gesture of supreme generosity. When she holds her main attribute – a visvajra – in her main right hand, she usually has a lasso in the other and the remaining ones hold the effigy of Amitabha seated on a lotus, an arrow, a bow, a long life vase, as above. One of the left hands is in the fear-allaying gesture.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Ushnishavijaya (labelled ‘bodhisattva’), bronze, private collection, photo on Collin du Bocage .

Alternatively, she may hold the visvajra in one of her right hands, in which case there is a vajra sceptre in one of her left hands (instead of the fear-allaying gesture).

18th century, Tibet, Ushnishavijaya (labelled ‘Marici’), gilt bronze, partly repainted, private collection, photo on Hansons .

Although her attributes are now lost, the position of the hands shows that this figure held the visvajra in her main right hand and a lasso in the other, a bow and an arrow in her middle hands, a long-life vase in the lower left hand, the right one is in the usual gesture. The upper hands may have held an effigy of Amitabha and a vajra sceptre, which departs from the standard depiction in Tibet.

18th-19th century, Tibet, Ushnishavijaya, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Bonhams, San Francisco .

Tibet, various bodhisattvas (4)

12th-13th century, Central Tibet, bodhisattva, copper alloy, photo on VMFA.

This elegant Pala-style bodhisattva holds the stem of a lotus in his left hand and a flat stick in the other – an attribute associated with Akashagarbha when standing (normally held in both hands).

13th century, Tibet, Amoghapasha, wood with painted details, photo on  Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyère (Switzerland).

This monk’s travelling shrine depicts nine deities (see above link) including Amoghapasha at the centre, in his one-head and two-arm form, presumably identified by the position of his left hand, palm out and displaying a ring between the thumb and forefinger, specific to him. The right hand is in the gesture of supreme generosity. We have only seen one other example, on HAR .

14th century (or later?), Tibet, labelled ‘Padmapani’, bronze, private collection, photo on Tajan .

A singular sculpture of a male figure with an antelope skin over his left shoulder but no lotus in his left hand (unlike Avalokiteshvara in his ‘lotus-bearer’ form),  and a water pot in his right hand (which Maitreya would hold in his left hand, by the neck). 

10th century, Tibet, votive plaque, terracotta, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyère (Switzerland).

On this triad the historical buddha is flanked by Vajrapani, holding an upright vajra sceptre before his heart, his left hand placed against his hip, and Avalokiteshvara holding the stem of a lotus in his left hand.

16th-17th century, Tibet, labelled ‘Tara and consorts’, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Hardt .

Here the main deity is Tara. The figure to her right holds a manuscript in his left hand and a lotus which appears to be topped with a vajra sceptre in the other. The attendant on the other side holds a conch shell in his left hand and possibly a rosary in the right one.

Tibet, Vajrabhairava (3)

15th century, Tibet, Vajrabhairava, gilt metal with pigment and stones, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources .

Ekavira Vajrabhairava, with 9 heads, 34 arms, 16 legs, his main hands clutching a flaying knife and a skull cup, his upper hands holding the hide of an elephant across his back. He always has a buffalo head as his main head and Manjushri’s at the top or in the top row. On this example he stands on animals and gods on a multi-tier pedestal.

16th century, Tibet, Vajrabhairava, metal with painted face and hair, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources .

His heads main be stacked in three rows of three, as on the first picture, or in a circle of seven plus one plus Manjushri’s, as above. His remaining hands, often arranged in groups of two, hold a variety of implements, such as a drum, a hook, an arrow, an axe, a ritual staff, a stick, a razor , to his right; a lotus, a bell, a wheel, a limb, a bow, a shield, a noose, Brahma’s head with four faces, to his left.

18th century, Tibet, Vajrabhairava, wood, private collection, photo on Marques dos Santos .

Traditionally his right legs are bent and tread on 4 Hindu gods and 4 mammals, the left ones are stretched and stand on another 4 gods and 4 birds (Indian iconography).

18th century, Tibet, Vajrabhairava, gilt bronze with cold gold and polychromy, private collection, photo on Bonhams .

Vajrabhairava in embrace with his consort, Vajravetali, who holds a flaying knife and a skull cup. His main hands and the upper ones hold the same attributes, his remaining hands hold a different variety of implements.

16th century, Tibet, Vajrabhairava with consort, metal (copper alloy with cold gold and pigment), turquoise inlay, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources .

These may include, in his left hands, a body impaled on a tree (top left hand), a bow, a blue lotus, a coil of intestines, a closed umbrella, a bell, a buddha, body parts, a noose, a fly whisk; on the other side he may hold a ritual staff, an axe, a kila, flames, a lotus, a trident, a drum, a sword, an arrow, a vajra sceptre.

18th century, Tibet, Vajrabhairava, bronze with traces of polychromy (on a brass pedestal), private collection, photo on Cambi Casa D’Aste .

18th century, Tibet, Vajrabhairava, bronze, private collection, photo on Cambi Casa d’Aste .

Tibet, Avalokiteshvara – standing (19)

12th-13th century, West(ern) Tibet, Padmapani, bronze with silver-inlay, private collection, photo on Hardt .

This Kashmiri-style bodhisattva has all the attributes of Avalokiteshvara in his padmapani (lotus-bearer) form: an effigy of Amitabha in his headdress, an antelope skin over his left shoulder, a lotus in his left hand – and his right hand is in the gesture of supreme generosity. While the engraved dhoti shorter on one side, the foliate garland, the beaded sacred cord, and the large eight-petal lotus recall earlier works made by Kashmiri artist for Guge patrons, the treatment of the eyes is different and the pectorals are not as clearly marked as usual. Also, the additional ribbons that flow upwards are not associated with Himalayan works. The use of blue mineral pigment on the ribbons, earrings and lotus departs from tradition.

10th century, Western Regions, Tibet, Six-Armed Lokeshvara, bronze, photo on Brooklyn Museum .

Shadbhuja Lokeshvara, an antelope skin on his left shoulder, the effigy of Amitabha at the base of his topknot, a lotus in his main left hand, stands on a lotus atop a tall Kashmiri-style plinth. He holds a water pot in his lower left hand, a vajra-hook and a fly whisk in his upper hands, a rosary in his main right hand.

13th century, Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, bronze, private collection, photo on Christie’s, Amsterdam .

The water pot held by the neck, in his left hand, derives from Gandharan art, where it is Maitreya’s main attribute. It is not clear if he holds a lotus flower with it but there is a large one at the front of his crown. His right hand is in the fear-allaying gesture and holds a rosary.

Late 18th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, ivory, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s, Paris .

Pala India, various bodhisattvas (8)

Circa 7th-8th century, Northeastern India, Bihar, possibly Padmapani Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy, private collection, photo on Cornette de Saint Cyr .

Seated on a lotus atop a stepped plinth, and surrounded by a floral arch on the inside of a Nalanda-style flaming mandorla, this elegant bodhisattva holds a large gem in his right hand and the stem of a closed lotus in the other. He is adorned with princely jewellery, a foliate crown, and a hair ornament with an ovoid jewel at the centre. His lotus appears to support a similarly shaped object.

8th-9th century, Eastern India, triad, copper alloy with silver inlay and painted details, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s .

On this brass work Shakyamuni is flanked by two bodhisattvas holding the stem of a lotus in their left hand while making the fear-allaying gesture with the other. The figure to his right is Maitreya, identified by the ritual water pot on the lotus and the stupa on his chignon; to his left, Avalokiteshvara, identified by the effigy of Amitabha in his headdress.

10th century, India, Bihar, Kurkihar, Lokeshvara, bronze, photo on Brooklyn Museum (USA).

Flanked by elephants and viyalas, Avalokiteshvara is seated in a relaxed manner on a large double-lotus seat supported by two lions atop a rectangular base with legs. His short dhoti and the sash across his chest are decorated with a stippled lotus motif (see close up ).

Circa 9th-10th century, India, Bihar, Manjushri as Manjughosa, stone, photo on Brooklyn Museum (USA).

We have seen various forms of Manjushri seated on a snow lion, none of which matched the above. The bodhisattva of wisdom is seated with the right leg pendent, his right hand in the fear-allaying gesture, his left hand placed over his knee and holding the stem of a blue lotus that supports a book/manuscript.

11th-12th century, Northeastern India, Maitreya, brass, private collection, photo on Bonhams .

Maitreya, identified by the stupa in his headdress and the kundika on the lotus to his left, is seated with the left leg pendent, atop a tall Pala-style lotus base with a lotus flower to support his left foot. His hands are ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘.