Tibet, Ratnasambhava – buddha appearance

14th-15th century, Tibet, Ratnasambhava, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Ratnasambhava is seated on a lotus base with a vajra (usually associated with Akshobhya) in front of him, his right hand held out in the gesture of generosity and displaying a gem (ratna).


His sanghati has a wide border decorated with an incised motif and one end of the garment is neatly pleated over the shoulder.

16th century, Tibet, a buddha (Ratnsambhava), gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Koller.

A similar iconography (gem in hand, vajra sceptre in front of him) but a different style, with a singular  way of draping the sanghati at the front.


Gilgit, seated buddha with attendants (2)

8th century, Gilgit, Shakyamuni or Vairochana, bronze with silver and copper inlay, at the Dangkar monastery in the Spiti Valley, photo by L.N. Laurent, published in Revue d’Études Tibétaines.

This rare sculpture depicts a buddha seated on a cushion with a copper and silver inlaid pattern typical of the Gilgit area (with a textile design from Central Asia), on a throne supported by two lions and a yaksha between two columns, a row of tassels at the top, a rocky formation below, the backplate or mandorla is missing. The buddha has silver-inlaid eyes and a copper-inlaid lower lip. He wears an unusual undergarment with silver and copper inlaid roundels and a sanghati with a v-shape neckline and concentric folds – a model often seen on Kashmiri works from the same period.

One end of the robe rests over his left shoulder and another piece over his left knee, a rare feature which L.N. Laurent relates to another two buddhas, one attributed to Gilgit and presently at the Potala and another attributed to Kashmir and presently at the Norton Simon Museum, both published in a previous post and reproduced below for ease of comparison. In his view, all three sculptures were made in the same atelier, although not necessarily at the same time. For more information, in particular why this buddha could also depict Vairochana, see the full article by L.N. Laurent on: http://himalaya.socanth.cam.ac.uk/collections/journals/ret/pdf/ret_26_06.pdf.

7th-8th century, Kashmir (or Gilgit?), buddha Shakyamuni, bronze with silver and copper inlay, at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena (USA).

This buddha also wears an undergarment with a silver and copper inlaid motif.

7th century, Gilgit, Shakyamuni, brass, cold gold on face and lapis lazuli in hair, at the Potala in Lhasa, (Tibet).

The circular pattern on the lower part of this buddha’s undergarment is often seen on Kashmiri buddhas.

Swat Valley, various bodhisattvas (3)

Undated, Swat Valley, Maitreya, bronze, at the Saidu Shari Museum.

Maitreya in his bodhisattva appearance, his right hand doing a fear-allaying gesture, the other holding a pot of water over his left knee, has an elegant silhouette with an elongated torso and long limbs. He is seated with one leg pendant, which is unusual for him.

Undated, Swat Valley style, (probably Maitreya), private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This bodhisattva wears the same jewellery as a Swat Valley Avalokiteshvara at the Fondation Alain Bordier dated 7th century, also made of brass with silver-inlaid eyes and copper-inlaid lips, but the shape of his crown is different and unusual for the area. Another singular feature is the water pot with a spout, often seen on Tibetan sculptures.

Undated, Swat Valley style, bodhisattva, bronze, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This figure, possibly Vajrapani,  holds a large vajra in his left hand and does the gesture of generosity with the right hand. He is seated on a lotus base with broad flat petals unusual for the area but we saw one Swat Valley Avalokiteshvara dated 7th-8th century seated on just the same type of base.

He has Central Asian facial features, a large effigy of Amitabha in his headdress, concentric rows of curls and long strands of hair ending in large curls over his shoulders, reminiscent of a dark bronze Avalokiteshvara published in a previous post (see below).

6th-7th century, Swat Valley, Avalokiteshvara, bronze with silver-inlaid eyes, private collection, Christie’s.


Swat Valley, two female deities (2)

Undated, Swat Valley, Pakistan, Tara, bronze, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Green Tara holds a tulip-shaped lotus in her left hand and displays the gesture of generosity with the other. She wears a tight-fitting tunic that leaves part of her breasts uncovered, revealing copper-inlaid nipples. She is adorned with bulky jewellery including several necklaces and anklets, and wears a singular hair ornament.

A halo with a star/solar symbol is fastened to her back.

7th-8th century, Swat Valley, Uddiyana, goddess, brass, is or was at the Lima Lakhang in Lhasa, photo by Ulrich von Schroeder.

Unlike the rest of Swat Valley metal sculptures, those attributed to the Uddiyana area are often made of brass.  This three-eye and six-arm deity with various attributes still in her hands is seated on a lotus base on a two-tier rocky formation decorated with four figures playing an instrument.

She is adorned with floral necklaces, matching armbands, bangles and earrings (one of them a hoop). There is an effigy of a buddha in her headdress. Her chest is bare and displays copper-inlaid nipples, she has a tiny waist and a large punched navel. Her pleated lower garment is knotted at the front.


Swat Valley, buddha on lion throne (3)

6th-7th century, Swat Valley, Pakistan, Shakyamuni, bronze with silver inlay, private collection, photo by Gandhara Gallery, published on http://www.asianart.com.

A dark bronze depicting the historical buddha with a piece of his robe in his left hand, his right hand displaying generosity, seated on a throne covered with a tasseled cloth and supported by two lions with silver-inlaid eyes. The buddha himself has silver-inlaid eyes and urna.

Undated, Swat Valley, Maitreya, bronze, no photo credits given, published on google.com.tw.

Seated on a lion throne, with both legs pendant, his hands ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘, a flaming hair ornament behind his chignon, this buddha may be Maitreya, normally identified by the stupa at the top of the  halo, or Shakyamuni, who holds a piece of his robe in his left hand. In the Swat Valley area, Maitreya usually has a bodhisattva appearance and holds a pot of water, but Shakyamuni normally sits in the vajra position. The backplate with a standing attendant on each side is a feature we have seen on various Swat Valley works dated 8th century.

Undated, Swat Valley style, Shakyamuni, metal, at the Palace Museum in Beijing, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, Swat Valley style, Shakyamuni, same as before.

Swat Valley, seated Avalokiteshvara (7)

7th-8th century, Swat Valley, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Avalokiteshvara, bronze with silver inlay, at the National Museum of Karachi (Pakistan), published on http://www.huntingtonarchive.org.

The bodhisattva of compassion is seated in the vajra position on a lotus base typical of the area, holding a long-stemmed flower, adorned with floral earrings, matching armbands, plain bracelets (no signs of a necklace having been there), wearing a long and finely pleated lower garment. The navel is a hole punched in the abdomen, a stippled pattern marks the outer edge of the nipples.

He is identified by the lotus and the effigy of Amitabha on the central panel of his crown. His hair is gathered in a bunch forming an open-fan shape behind the crown. The large black pupils are missing from his silver-inlaid eyes.

9th century, Swat Valley, Avalokiteshvara, brass, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

Avalokiteshvara holds his lotus in a manner specific to the Swat Valley area, where the lotus often has six petals (this one has five and the previous one had eight). He is adorned with floral jewellery and a thin scarf worn in a manner that leaves the chest uncovered. The devotee attached to the base is probably the donor of the sculpture.

His backplate is missing.