Nepal, an exceptional Vajrasattva

15th century, Nepal, buddha Vajrasattva, gilt copper, at the British Museum (London).

15th century, Nepal, buddha Vajrasattva, gilt copper, at the British Museum (London).

This well-preserved (and probably well-restored) masterpiece of early Malla sculpture shows  supreme buddha Vajrasattva with an effigy of Akshobhya on the tall front panel of his crown, holding a thunderbolt or vajra in each hand. His crown is adorned with lotus flowers and large pleated bows. The hair, eyebrows and eyes are painted with black pigment. He has a raised small rectangular urna on his forehead. His transparent knee-length dhoti is decorated with an incised floral pattern and held in place with a belt adorned with the only inlaid stone used on the whole statue. One of the pleated ends at the front is broken but it looks as if it wasn’t quite as long as the pleated sash on his side. The body proportions on Malla sculptures are usually unrealistic, the waist is exaggeratedly thin and sometimes the hips are almost non existent. On this elegant figure, the torso is more realistic, with well defined nipples and a navel which is not the usual hole punched in the abdomen, in contrast with the minute knee caps and rigid legs.

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