Tibet, Shakyamuni on a lion throne

11th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy with copper overlay and silver inlay,

11th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy with copper overlay and silver inlay, at the Asia Society Museum (USA9.

Undated, same as above, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, same as above, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

These two strikingly similar sculptures are thought to be two of numerous copies of a sacred Indian icon held at Bodh Gaya. They depict the buddha about to reach enlightenment, his right hand calling Earth to witness (bhumisparsha mudra), the other hand in the meditation gesture or dhyana mudra. He sits on a cushion embroidered with a floral design and the face of a lion at the centre. The ‘throne’ is supported by two lions and two elephants. The small figure between them holding a vase is the Earth goddess. The other figure could be the donor of the sculpture.

13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass,

13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass, is or was at the gTsug Lahkang in Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

This is a simpler pedestal, supported by two lions and a yaksha, with the buddha sitting on a single-lotus base. When they are part of a throne, yakshas are often crouching, naked, their arms up as if to support the throne.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy, photo by Sotheby's.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy, photo by Sotheby’s.

The buddha sits on a single-lotus base with the petals going downwards. The throne, supported by two lions, has a thunderbolt in relief placed horizontally on the font panel. This iconography also corresponds to Akshobhya – the only difference is that the historical buddha normally has a wheel of dharma in the palm of his hands and on the sole of his feet – unless the sculpture is so worn that you cannot see it.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy with copper inlay and pigment, photo by Christie's.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy with copper inlay and pigment, photo by Christie’s.

The buddha sits on a single-lotus base with the petals going upwards. The throne, partly covered with a cloth, is supported by two lions and there is an upright thunderbolt incised on the front panel.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt metal, at the Fondation Alain Bordier (Switzerland)

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt metal, at the Fondation Alain Bordier (Switzerland).

The buddha is seated on a Nepalese-style throne supported by two kneeling figures  and two lions. There is a long-life vase at the centre. It is richly gilt and adorned with stones and coral inlay in the Nepalese fashion. The back-panel or mandorla with a flaming arch on the edge is richly decorated with two elephants topped with two viyalas/vyalas, two makaras, a garuda at the top.

16th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt metal, photo by Bonhams.

16th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt metal, photo by Bonhams.

This later work depicts the buddha sitting on a double-lotus placed on a throne supported by two elephants, two lions and a yaksha and adorned with numerous vajra sceptres. The mandorla with a flaming edge is  decorated with two bodhisattvas and the standard two elephants with two viyalas standing on them, two makaras above, a garuda at the top, and scrolled vegetation.

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