Tibet, Manjushri – various forms (17)

15th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt copper alloy with silver (and turquoise) inlay, 12,7 cm, private collection, photo on  Sotheby’s.

One of the forms of Manjushri described in the namasangiti tantra. He has one head and four arms, and sits with his legs crossed, holding a sword in his upper right hand, a lily topped with a book in the other, a bow and an arrow in the remaining pair of hands.

Unlabelled (15th century?, Tibet, Manjushri, painted clay), photo on Active Planet Travels , at the Kumbum in Gyantse (Tibet).

Vadisimha Manjushri, seated on a roaring snow lion with the left leg pendent, his hands making the dharmacakra mudra and holding the stem of blue flowers that support the hilt of a sword (to his right) and a book (to his left). He wears a crown, princely jewellery, a celestial scarf.

Unlabelled (15th century?, Tibet, Manjushri, painted clay), photo on HAR , at the Kumbum in Gyantse (Tibet).

A similar image, from the same complex.

Unlabelled (15th century?, Tibet, Manjushri, painted clay), photo on Active Planet Travels , at the Kumbum in Gyantse (Tibet).

A variant, seated with the right leg pendent, leaning on the base with his left hand while holding the stem of a flower that supports the hilt of a sword, his right hand held palm out in the gesture of supreme generosity. He has a third eye, a mass of matted hair topped with a flaming jewel, a low tiara, no jewellery.

14th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt copper alloy with stones, 12,5 cm, The Claude de Marteau Collection part II, lot 8, 4th October 2022, Bonhams (Paris).

After the 13th century, most Tibetan portable sculptures of White Manjushri (with a white body on paintings) depict him seated with his legs locked, his hands making the ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘ gesture, holding the stem of flowers that support his attributes: the hilt of a sword to his right, the Prajnaparamita sutra to his left.

14th-15th century, Tibet, labelled ‘bodhisattva, possibly Manjushri’, copper alloy, 23,8 cm, private collection, Asian Art lot 127, 2nd November 2011, Koller.

Although he the blue lily topped with a book is broken and he only has the stem in his left hand, the hilt of a sword (to cut through ignorance) protruding from the flower in his right hand identifies this figure as Manjusrhi, the bodhisattva of wisdom.

16th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt bronze with stones, 16 cm, private collection, auction 2455 lot 419, 10th May 2000, Christie’s (Amsterdam).

16th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt copper alloy, 10,5 cm, The Claude de Marteau Collection part I, lot 51, 14th June 2022, Bonhams (Paris).

17th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt bronze, 17 cm, Asian Art lot 3106, 2nd December 2021, Polyauction (Hong Kong).

17th-18th century, Tibet, Manjushri (labelled ‘bodhisattva’), gilt bronze with turquoise, coral, lapis lazuli, 8,8 cm, private collection, Asian Art lot 114, 28th October 2004, Christie’s (London).

Tibet, Phagpa Lokeshvara (8)

Circa 16th century or later, Tibet, Arya Avalokiteshvara, sandalwood with cold gold and pigments, 93 cm, Buddhist Sculpture in Tibet Volume Two, p. 824 pl. 196A, photo courtesy of Ulrich von Schroeder (1991), at the Drepung monastery (Central Tibet).

One of the many copies of the famous Nepalese sandalwood statue kept at the Phagpa Lhakhang of the Potala in Lhasa, albeit with different body proportions and facial features. The right hand makes the gesture of supreme generosity as usual but the left one is held at an awkward angle instead of resting against his hip, and he wears a very short dhoti.

Like most wooden copies of the idol, he has an effigy of himself at the front of his tall three-leaf crown.

Circa 16th century or later, Tibet, Arya Avalokiteshvara, sandalwood with cold gold and pigments, 89 cm, Buddhist Sculpture in Tibet Volume Two, p. 824 pl. 196 B, photo 1991, courtesy of Ulrich von Schroeder, at the Drepung monastery (Central Tibet).

A similar statue with the dhoti much longer one one side and decorated with a scrolling vine motif. The arch behind him features, on each side, an elephant, a lioness, a boy on a sharabha, a makara, a naga, and there is a garuda at the top (see the page on Mythical Creatures on left-hand side of this blog).

Circa 14th century or later, Tibet, Arya Avalokiteshvara, ivory, 24,5 cm, same as before, p.825 pl.196D, photo courtesy of Ulrich von Schroeder, Potala Collection, Bla ma lha kang, inventory nº 825.

In his remarkable ‘Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Volume Two’, Ulrich von Schroeder explains that this ivory image was assembled from four separate parts and that, after it was repaired, the right hand was not placed in its original position.

Undated, Tibet?, Avalokiteshvara, clay?, photo on Ferry Erdmann , at a shrine in Central Tibet.

Tibet, early crowned figure

7th-8th century, Western Tibet, Zhang Zhung Kingdom, Crowned Buddha Shakyamuni, brass, 19,7 cm, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet Volume 2, p.778 pl.183A, by Ulrich von Schroeder, Visual Dharma Publications (Hong Kong), photo courtesy of Ulrich von Schroeder, Potala Collection, Sa gsum lha khang, inventory nº 40, Lhasa (Tibet).

A singular image of a crowned figure with a bodhisattva hairstyle which brings to mind a brass statue seen here  (labelled ‘Avalokiteshvara with cabas’ but probably depicting Maitreya) and various Swat Valley stone carvings of a four-arm bodhisattva wearing a garment that covers both shoulders, a crown, necklace, earrings, and holding an ascetic staff in one of his right hands and a water pot with a large handle in the other, identified as Maitreya in an article by Anna Filigenzi.

The hair is gathered in a topknot except for long strands that fall over his shoulders. The backplate and pedestal are missing.

Tibet, Mahakala – various forms (17)

16th c., Tibet, Mahakala, stone with pigments, photo by E.T. Basilia, inventory nº 9521 l, at the State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow (Russia).

Panjarnata Mahakala (a wrathful form of Shri Hevajra), with one head and two hands, squatting on a victim atop a lotus base, holding a flaying knife in his right hand, a skull cup in the other, a dandy staff placed across his arms. He is adorned with a five-skull crown, a garland of severed heads, snakes and bone jewellery. He is flanked by two female attendants, one of them his sister, Palden Lhamo,  riding a kiang.

Unlabelled (circa 13th century?, Tibet, Mahakala, brass), private collection, photo on HAR

A rare statue depicting him in a fighting pose like his kartaridhara form (see below) but holding a curved knife before his chest.

Unlabelled (circa 15th century?, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper or copper alloy with turquoise and coral inlay), private collection, photo from Deities Unveiled: Himalayan Art from the Collection of John Loomis on Garuda Books

Kartaridhara Mahakala always brandishes his flaying knife in his right hand at head level while crushing a victim atop a lotus base (missing here). The above has a crescent moon and a sun disc on top of his chignon.

16th century, Tibet, Nepalese artist, Mahakala, gilt copper with cold gold and pigment, photo by E.T. Basilia, inventory nº 9538 l, at the State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow (Russia).

Chaturbhuja Mahakala (a wrathful form of Samvara), with one head and four arms, seated on a victim. He holds a flying knife and a skull cup in his main hands, a sword and a trident in the remaining ones – which corresponds to the Nepalese convention. He has the effigy of a buddha at the front of his chignon and his tiger skin loin cloth is arranged with the head of the animal over his right knee and the tail on the other.

Tibet, Avalokiteshvara – singular works

14th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, bronze with copper inlay and traces of gilding, 28 cm, private collection, Asian Art lot 103, 8th May 2012, Koller.

Avalokiteshvara, identified by the effigy of Amitabha on top of his chignon, displays an incised spiral on his forehead to represent a coil or hair known as urna – one of the distinctive marks of the historical buddha. Most bodhisattvas have a round, rectangular, or tear-shaped urna, incised or inlaid with metal or stone, often confused with a third eye. In Himalayan Buddhist art, and despite what can be read on many websites, the urna is not a third eye. A third eye always has the shape of an eye placed vertically; it is normally seen on wrathful deities, multi-headed deities with wrathful implements and/or a wrathful countenance, and a form of Tara known as ‘Tara with the seven eyes’.

16th century, Tibet, Khasarpana, bronze with silver and copper inlay, cold gold, pigments, photo E.T. Basilia, inventory nº 5155 l at the State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow (Russia).

As it happens, this Pala-revival Avalokiteshvara has a third eye instead of an urna, which is highly unusual for a bodhisattva in his one-head and two-arm form. The term khasarpana is a general term often applied to Avalokiteshvara seated with a leg pendent and holding a lotus in his left hand. The above is seated with both feet on the lotus base (rajalilasana), his right hand over the raised knee, the left one leaning on the base and clutching the stem of a lotus topped with something that rather looks like a manuscript (?). 

7th-8th century, Central Tibet, Yarlung Dynasty, Avalokiteshvara, silver alloy with cold gold and blue pigment, 20 cm, as per Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet Volume 2, p. 764, by Ulrich von Schroeder (Visual Dharma Publications, Hong Kong), photo on HAR , Potala Collection inventory nº 256, Lhasa, Tibet.

This enigmatic sculpture has been attributed to the tenth karmapa, who lived during the 17th century but, according to Ulrich von Schroeder, this is the original sculpture – later copied by Chöying Dorje.  It depicts the bodhisattva of compassion, identified by the lotus in his left hand and the water pot in the other (possibly containing flowers), seated on a cow.  At the front, we can see a calf, a female musician, the donor dressed in monastic garments, an attendant, a large container with a handle  – a beer recipient according to the author (who also mentions a couple of three-hooded naga kings, presumably on the edge of the rocky formation?).

18th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara (labelled ‘buddha’), bronze, 20 cm, private collection, photo on De Baecque

This bodhisattva brings to mind a sculpture of Avalokiteshvara at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts , (although the latter is seated in rajalilasana). Neither of them wears a crown, they have the same facial features and hairstyle, they both have an antelope skin knotted across their chest, and they sit on the same type of Pala-revival lotus base.

Maitreya in Tibet

Circa 8th century, Western Tibet, Zhang Zhung Kingdom, Maitreya or Avalokiteshvara (?), gilt copper or copper alloy, 26,3 cm, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet Volume Two, p. 783, pl. 185C, Ulrich von Schroeder, Visual Dharma Publications, Hong Kong. Potala Collection, Lima Lhakhang, inventory nº 999, Lhasa (Tibet). Photo: courtesy of Ulrich von Schroeder.

Both Maitreya and Avalokiteshvara may make the fear-allaying gesture with their right hand, and early Western Tibetan sculptures sometimes depict the latter holding a ritual water pot by the neck, but he does so with his right hand, while clutching the stem of a lotus with the left one. Maitreya holds the attribute in his left hand. The above wears Swat-Valley style floral earrings but the design of the rest of his jewellery is uncommon. We saw a Maitreya with equally uncommon jewellery, fairly similar facial features, crown, hairstyle, knee-length dhoti with thick folds, held in place with a floral belt, on  Metropolitan Museum of Art (originally labelled ‘Jammu and Kashmir’, now ‘likely Swat Valley or Gilgit region’).

The lug and the hole at the back indicate that he once had an arch behind him, the pedestal is missing. A repair has been carried out on the back of his left leg.

We saw a seated version, also part of the Potala Collection, on Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet –  the following is a view of the back, courtesy of Mr Ulrich von Schroeder.

7th-8th century, Tibet, Zhang Zhung Kingdom, Maitreya, brass with remains of gilding, 17 cm, at the Lima Lhakhang of the Potala in Lhasa, inventory nº 1262.

He wears a shawl across his shoulders, with the extremities tucked behind him.

Undated (15th century?), Maitreya, painted clay, photo on mountains of travel , at the Pelkor Chöde in Gyantse (Tibet).

Maitreya seated with his legs crossed, his right hand in the gesture of debate, the other in the gesture of meditation, flanked by flowers that support a dharma wheel (to his right) and a ritual water pot (to his left).

Tibet, wrathful Vajrapani – various forms (13)

Undated (probably 15th century), Tibet, one of the protector deities, painted clay, photo on Jenny far away , at the Gyantse Kumbum (Tibet).

Wrathful Vajrapani with a blue-black body, one head with three eyes and bared fangs, two arms, a vajra sceptre in his right hand and a vajra bell in the other, which corresponds to his nilambara/nilambadhara form. He is flanked by two attendants who stand on separate lotuses and each hold a bell. This aspect of the deity doesn’t wear a skull crown or a garland of severed heads but he usually has a tiger skin loin cloth.

14th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, metal (brass), private collection, item 7594 on Himalayan Art Resources.

The head of this statue is so big that it looks as if it belongs to a different work. Vajrapani is depicted in his chanda form, with his left hand pointing sideways. He would have stood on a victim lying on a bed of snakes, or directly on the snakes.

18th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, gilt bronze with paint, inventory nº y-1136 at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

More often than not, his left hand holds a lasso before his chest, wound around his forefinger. On this Chinese-style example he acts as an attendant (see full sculpture here ).

17th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, gilt metal with paint, private collection, photo on HAR 

We have only seen a few sculptures depicting this form of wrathful Vajrapani, whose distinctive features are a long silk coat with wide sleeves and a flayed human hide.

A rear view of the work shows the latter, with the head and the arms on the left, the legs on the other side, cut out in the middle to display the back of an elegant four-point cape with a cloud shape border. He always stands on two victims, brandishing a vajra sceptre in his right hand holding a bell in the other.

Tibet, Achala standing (2)

Achala is described in the mahavairocana tantra as one of the krodha vighnantaka group of deities, who are obstacle removers. He may have wrathful yaksha appearance or a human one, and may have one head and two or four arms, four heads an four arms, three heads, six arms, and four legs. On paintings his body is blue, black, or white, and he sometimes appears as a subsidiary figure.

13th century, Tibet, Achala, metal (brass), private collection, photo on HAR

This early statue, possibly unique in its genre, depicts him with a mask-like human face, broad shoulders, doll-like legs standing stiffly on a base now lost (the artist obviously didn’t have a model to work from). He is adorned with a (broken) three-leaf tiara, incised  – rather than modelled – jewellery, and there is a naga wound around his chest and left hip. Apart from those marking his navel and nipples, more stippled dots can be seen on his shoulder and knee joints, on his shins, on his throat, and there is a sun-like one on his forehead. His thin eyebrows have individually incised hair.

Unlabelled (15th century?, Tibet, Achala, painted clay), photo on Active Planet Travels , at the Kumbum in Gyantse (Tibet).

Achala is identified by the flaming sword of wisdom he brandishes in his right hand, in conjunction with the vajra-tipped noose he has in the other (with the fingers making a wrathful gesture).  He is depicted with a couple of kneeling attendants who have the same appearance.

15th century, Tibet, Achala, bronze, photo by E.T. Basilia, inventory nº 22344 l at the State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow (Russia).

Blue Achala always has his mouth closed, biting his lower lip with his upper fangs, and the ends of his noose usually flow above his left shoulder. When standing, he may tread on two victims or on elephant-headed Ganapati, as above. It is not uncommon for him to have a buddha effigy at the top of his flaming hair.

Tibet, Avalokiteshvara – early works

Circa 8th century, Western Tibet, Zhang Zhung Kingdom, Avalokiteshvara, gilt brass or bronze, 27,3 cm, photo on HAR , published in Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet Volume 2, p. 787 Pl. 187C, by Ulrich von Schroeder, Visual Dharma Publications, Hong Kong, Potala Collection, inventory nº 1376, at the Lima Lakhang chapel of the Potala in Lhasa (Tibet).

Avalokiteshvara, with an effigy of Amitabha at the front of his crown, a lotus in his left hand and an antelope skin on his left shoulder, is depicted in a pensive mood which recalls Swat Valley sculptures – as does the hairstyle and the large floral earrings. However, the rest of his jewellery, the low crown, the short dhoti, the belt knotted at the front, the stippled nipples, and the thin elongated limbs all depart from Swat Valley standards – not to mention the lotus seat supported by a singular rocky formation that integrates a lion surrounded by foliage at the centre, a ram at one corner, another hoofed animal but with straight horns at the other corner. 

7th-8th century, Swat Valley or Western Tibet, Padmapani (Avalokiteshvara), bronze, 10,8 cm, Indian and Southeast Asian Art lot 346, 16th September 2008, Christie’s.

This Avalokiteshvara is seated with his right leg over the left one, his right hand in the gesture of generosity, the left one holding the stem of an open lotus and leaning on his thigh. He has an antelope skin over his left shoulder and wears a long Pala-style dhoti with an incised pattern, a Western-Tibetan style crown and celestial scarf, beaded jewellery and a matching sacred thread. The lobed abdomen recalls Kashmiri works.

842-1206 CE, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, clay tsa-tsa, photo on Huntington Archive, at the Tholing monastery, Ngari, (Western Tibet).

 

We don’t often see him in this pose, known as rajalilasana (often translated as ‘royal ease pose’). His right arm is placed over his raised knee at an awkward angle, his left hand holds the stem of lotuses and leans on the base. There is an effigy of Amitabha in his headdress. 

10th or 11th century, Tibet or Nepal, Avalokiteshvara, bronze, 12,4 cm, auction M0009 lot18, 15th December 2014, Pundole’s.

 

Mongolia, Maitreya (3)

15th century (or later???), Mongolia, Maitreya, gilt bronze, 22,2 cm, photo on Baltimore Museum of Art (USA).

The future buddha, identified by the stupa on his head, holds a ritual water pot in his left hand and has an antelope skin over his left shoulder. His right hand makes the gesture of debate (tip of the forefinger on tip of the thumb). He wears a skirt-like lower garment with an incised border and a beaded sacred cord.

18th century, Mongolia, Maitreya, gilt bronze with stone inlay and pigment, 23,5 cm, school of Zanabazar, nº y-799 at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

Standing on a similar lotus base typical of the Zanabazar school, the above makes the same gesture with his right hand. The flower to his left supports his water pot.

17th century, Mongolia, Maitreya, gilt bronze, photo on Huntington Archive , at the Choijin lama’s temple museum in Ulan Bator (Mongolia).