Tibet, Akshobhya – buddha appearance

11th c., Tibet, Akshobhya, gilt copper alloy, photo by the Norton Simon Museum (USA).

11th c., Tibet, Akshobhya, gilt copper alloy, photo by the Norton Simon Museum (USA).

Akshobhya is normally seated and often represented in buddha appearance, i.e. in monastic robe, no jewellery no scarf, his hair arranged in a chignon or ushnisha itself topped with a small golden finial.

15th century, Tibet, Akshobhya, bronze, photo by Koller.

15th century, Tibet, Akshobhya, copper alloy with copper inlay, photo by Koller.

In paintings his body would be blue but in sculpture it is sometimes impossible to distinguish him from the historical buddha as his hands are in the same position: the right hand calling Earth to witness and the left hand  cupped to hold a begging bowl (often missing). Naming him one way or the other is then purely conventional, unless the statue is part of a set of five celestial or dhyani buddhas (also called jina or tathagata buddhas).

15th century, Tibet, Akshobhya, gilt copper alloy and pigment, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

15th century, Tibet, Akshobhya, gilt copper alloy and pigment, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

He sometimes holds a begging bowl in his left hand (which may have been added at a later date). He may also hold a vajra horizontally in his right hand, as above…

15th century, Tibet, Akshobhya, gilt copper with pigment, photo by Sotheby's.

15th century, Tibet, Akshobhya, gilt copper with pigment, photo by Sotheby’s.

or vertically in his left hand, as on this sculpture that depicts him sitting on a throne supported by demons called Yakshas, and on the following one that depicts him seated on an elephant throne with Jambhala at the centre.

16th century circa, Tibet, Akshobhya, gilt copper alloy and pigment, photo by Ulrich von Schroeder.

16th century circa, Tibet, Akshobhya, gilt copper and pigment, photo by Ulrich von Schroeder.

The two elephants supporting the throne are proper to Akshobhya so we would know him even if the vajra was missing.

16th century, Tibet, Akshobhya, copper alloy with copper inlay, photo by Christie's.

16th century, Tibet, Akshobhya, copper alloy with copper inlay, photo by Christie’s.

16th century circa, Tibet, Akshobhya, gilt copper alloy, photo by Christie's.

16th century circa, Tibet, Akshobhya, gilt copper alloy, photo by Christie’s.

Often, a small vajra is placed in front of him rather than in one of his hands.

15th century, Tibet, Akshobhya, bronze, photo by Nagel Auctions.

15th century, Tibet, Akshobhya, copper alloy with copper inlay, photo by Nagel Auctions.

This rare sculpture shows him sitting on a lotus supported by a pedestal decorated with two lions, two elephants and two vajras.

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