Tibet, Tangut protectors

Tibet, 18th century, copper alloy, dharmapala with three legs, private collection.

Tibet, 18th century circa, copper alloy, dharmapala with three legs, private collection.

This unidentifed protector of the faith or dharmapala has five heads with three eyes, flaming hair, six hands and three legs resting on what looks like two skulls and a skull cup. He is adorned with wrathful ornaments (skull crown, garland of freshly severed heads, tiger skin, snakes) and carries ritual implements such as a thunderbolt and bell, a chopper and (a missing) skull cup, and two unidentified objects which could be human hearts. The single-lotus base is typical of Tibet.

Undated, Tibet, copper alloy, at the American Museum of National History.

Undated, Tibet, copper alloy, at the American Museum of National History.

This more modern one has nine heads, each with three eyes and a skull at the centre and the upper three topped with a half-vajra finial, 16 arms holding ritual implements (bell, drums. shell) and severed heads, the upper ones holding stretched human hides, and three legs resting on three skulls. There is a human head hanging upside down around his waist and there is a skull on each of his knees. The base, with a human hide and an animal hide instead of lotuses, is not of Tibetan origin, it is an imitation of 6th to 7th century Indian bases used with other wrathful deities.

same as before.

same as before with turquoise inlay.

This one has four heads with three eyes,  flaming hair, 8 arms, three legs standing on three skulls. He is adorned with snakes, skull crowns and a garland of freshly severed heads, and carries various ritual objects such as a lasso, two rosaries, and maybe two skull cups. There is a knot of eternity on the arch behind him above his right shoulder. The single-lotus base design corresponds to 18th century circa Tibetan works.

The Tangut or Tanghut were people of mixed ethnical origins, including  Tibetans, with a common language and culture.

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