Bhutan, travelling exhibition

Buddhist sculptures from Bhutan are usually late works from the 17th-19th century. They are beautifully handcrafted and lavishly decorated, as can be seen from the exhibition The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan, that was held at various museums across the world and organised by the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Kingdom of Bhutan in 2009. Here are few examples:

17th century, Bhutan, Maitreya, gilt bronze+cold gold+pig.+turq., 19 cm, Phajoding Gönpa, Thimphu

17th century, Bhutan, buddha of the future Maitreya sitting on a throne in the ‘European way’, gilt copper alloy, pigment, turquoise inlay, from the Phajoding monastery in Thimphu, Bhutan.

18th century, Bhutan, buddha Akshobhya, parcel-gilt silver alloy, cold gold on face, turquoise inlay, pigment, photo by Shuzo Uemoto, on exhibition at the Rietberg Museum

18th century, Bhutan, buddha Akshobhya, parcel-gilt silver alloy, cold gold on face, turquoise inlay, pigment, photo by Shuzo Uemoto.

Akshobhya is dressed in princely garments and wearing a crown. He holds a vajra or thunderbolt in one hand while calling Earth to witness with the other. The pedestal represents Akshobhya’s mount, i.e. two elephants, and his wrathful form, Achala (a protector of the faith who chases evil away with is sword).

The Bhutanese style is a mixture of Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan and Kashmiri styles but the shape of the foliage on the cushion is typical of Bhutanese buddhist sculptures.

15th-16th century, Bhutan, buddha Vajrasattva, gilt copper alloy and pigment, cold gold and stone inlay, private collection, photo by Shuzo Uemoto
15th-16th century, Bhutan, buddha Vajrasattva, gilt copper alloy, cold gold on face, pigment, stone inlay, lent by Dongkarla Kunzang Choling, Paro, photo by Shuzo Uemoto, .

Vajrasattva, a reflection of the primordial buddha Vajradhara, is holding a vajra in one hand and a ghanta (bell) in the other. He has the elongated ears of all buddhas and wears princely jewellery like the Newar sculptures from Nepal. The double-lotus base is reminiscent of  Tibetan ones from an earlier period. The statue has been fire-gilt all over then some cold gold was applied to the face, in the Tibetan fashion.

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