Tibet, Maitreya – various postures

14th century, Tibet, Maitreya, gilt copper with gems, private collection, photo by Hanhai auction.

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.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Maitreya, gilt bronze with turquoise and paint, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

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).

17th century, labelled ‘Tibet or Mongolia’, Maitreya, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

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.

14th century, Tibet, Maitreya (labelled bodhisattva), bronze with paint, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

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.

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Tibet, seated Maitreya (17)

Circa 14th century, Tibet, Maitreya, gilt copper with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Suneet Kapoor.

Maitreya in his bodhisattva appearance, seated with his legs locked, identified by his hand gesture (‘turning the wheel of dharma‘) and his hair piled in a chignon topped with a half-vajra finial, the crown and lotuses fastened to his arms missing.

15th century, Tibet, Maitreya (labelled Manjushri), gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The lotuses on each side of him may support a variety of attributes amongst which a ritual water pot, often placed to his left. In this case, the water pot is placed to his right and there is a leaf, possibly from an ashoka tree, placed vertically on the other open lotus, to his left.

16th century, Tibet, Maitreya, gilt bronze with turquoise and coral inlay, private collection, photo by Hollywood Galleries.

Here the flowers are a day and a night lotus, topped with a wheel  and a ritual water pot.

16th century, Tibet, Maitreya, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with paint, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

On later sculptures there is sometimes  a branch of ashoka tree placed on the lotus to his right.

18th century, Tibet, Maitreya, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Galerie Zacke.

Tibet, seated Maitreya – European fashion

11th century (or later?), Tibet, Maitreya, bronze (brass) with paint, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This curious work associates a Kashmiri-style figure seated on a lion throne over a lotus base with ‘hoofed’ petals very similar to a 12th century sculpture at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (published in the Kashmiri section of this blog) together with a back plate featuring elephants, viyalas, makaras and Kirtimukha with a stupa at the top, a design that was popular in Tibet at a much later date. He has a buddha appearance and a stupa finial on his head.

14th century, Tibet, Maitreya, copper with glass inlay and traces of gilding and pigments, private collection, photo by Koller.

Maitreya in his bodhisattva appearance.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Maitreya, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Here he is surrounded by a flaming arch fitting tightly around him and decorated with turquoise-inlaid flowers and a triple gem at the top, his feet resting on a lotus stemming from the base, his throne supported by various standing figures, a large lotus bud on top of his chignon. There is no attribute specifically related to him and the figure could be the historical buddha preaching although it is generally accepted that this way of sitting points to Maitreya, buddha of the future.

15th century, Tibet, Maitreya, gilt bronze with stones and pigments, private collection, photo by Polyauction.

The above sits with his legs apart, on a lotus flower rather than a cushion on a (missing) throne. There is a stupa on his head.

16th century, Tibet, Maitreya, gilt bronze with turquoise, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

A chinese-style figure with a shawl, a lotus next to him topped with a ritual water pot (kundika)

18th century, Tibet, Maitreya, bronze, at the British Museum in London (UK).

Tibet, Vairochana – four faces (5)

14th-15th century, Tibet, Vairochana, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Koller.

Sarvavid Maha Vairochana (or Vairocana) has four heads and two hands, in which he may hold an upright vajra sceptre, as above.

Undated (circa 15th century?), Tibet, Vairochana, gilt metal with turquoise and lapis lazuli, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Otherwise he holds a wheel (cakra).

17th century, Tibet, Vairochana, Sarvavid form, gilt bronze with turquoise and paint, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

15th century (or later for the figure itself?), Tibet, Vairocana (labelled ‘bodhisattva’), gilt bronze with turquoise, coral and lapis lazuli, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

A rare example with one main head and three smaller ones at the back, holding an upright vajra while doing the gesture of supreme enlightenment.

Undated (circa 18th century), Tibet, gilt bronze, Vairochana, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (USA).

Tibet, Amitayus – bodhisattva appearance (12)

Circa 14th century, Tibet, Amitayus, gilt copper alloy with turquoise and glass, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Whether he has a buddha or a bodhisattva appearance, Amitayus always holds a long-life vase in both hands.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Amitayus, gilt copper alloy with silver inlay and glass, private collection, photo by Koller.When the vase is missing, the bodhisattva appearance together with the position of the hands are enough to identify him.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Amitayus, gilt copper alloy with stone and coral inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.A short celestial scarf forming a frame around the subject was a popular feature in parts of Tibet around the 15th century.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Amitayus, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with stones, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

18th century, Tibet or Mongolia, Amitayus, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with turquoise, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Tibet, Vajradhara alone – (13)

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with stones, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This buddha has a three-tier chignon topped with a half-vajra finial. He wears a silk shawl with a lotus motif and an embroidered hem, even the back of his necklace and belt are inlaid with turquoise. The rim of the lotus base is decorated with a chased floral patter except at the back, where an inscription in Tibetan can be seen.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The personal touch of the artist is expressed here through the loops of the celestial scarf shaped like sprouting lotuses.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, brass with turquoise and paint, private collection, photo by Bonham’s.

On this Chinese-style sculpture with voluminous drapin, red paint has been used for the ribbon and side bows of the crown.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, brass, private collection, photo by Navin Kumar.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, copper alloy with silver and copper inlaid eyes, private collection, photo by Castor Hara.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze with stones, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze (copper alloy with traces of gilding), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.Note the long strands of individually shaped curls that come half way down the forearm of this dynamic figure.

18th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Galerie Zacke.

Tibet, Vajradhara – alone (12)

13th-14th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, copper alloy with cold gold, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Thought to have been made by a Newari artist in Tibet, this rare Licchavi-style image shows Vajradhara with his eyes closed, adorned with large floral earrings and matching tripartite crown, a thin sash drawn tightly across his chest, holding a vajra sceptre and a bell.

14th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt copper with silver and gems, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

He always hashis hands crossed over his heart, palm inwards, although the attributes may be supported by lotuses next to him.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt copper alloy with turquoise, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The vajra sceptre may be placed vertically or horizontally.

15th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze with turquoise, coral, lapiz lazuli, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

He often has a half-vajra finial on his head. The above has a richly incised dhoti worn in the Nepalese fashion, i.e. short enough  to show his shin adornments and his anklets.

15th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy and stone inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

This image was erroneously published in a post on Vajrasattva and has since been deleted from it. It is clearly Vajradhara.

15th-16th century, Central Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt bronze (or plain brass?) with turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Cambi Casa d’Aste.

During the 15th and 16th century, workshops in Central Tibet produced many brass sculptures with silver and copper or stone inlay and finely incised Chinese-style silk garments.