Tibet, Karmapas (3)

Undated, Tibet, karmapa, copper alloy with silver inlay, at the Walters

Undated (15th century circa?), Tibet, karmapa, copper alloy with silver inlay, at the Walters Art Museum.

This splendid work may depict one of the early karmapas, who wore flat hats instead of the crown-like ones that were introduced from China (see the Himalayan Art Resources website). He has the elongated earlobes and the urna proper to a buddha. His eyes are inlaid with silver in the Kashmiri style. He wears a mixture of patched, plain and brocaded garments, topped with a meditation cloak that leaves his right arm visible. His right hand does the teaching gesture of vitarka mudra, there is a buddhist text manuscript (sutra) in the other. The sole of his feet is flat and triangular.

16th century, Tibet, karmapa, gilt copper, private collection, published on en.see

16th century, Tibet, karmapa, gilt copper, private collection, published on en.see

This sculpture looks very much like a 16th century brass item published in a previous post. It displays the same facial features, the same type of lotus base, the same hand gestures. The garments and hat vary a little, the only noticeable difference is the shape of the flaming jewel(s) in his hand. Unfortunately, both are without an inscription on the base that would make identification possible.

16th-17th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, photo by Christie's.

16th-17th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, photo by Christie’s.

The lower garment of this karmapa is gathered loosely to form a lotus flower over the double-lotus base. His hat is topped with a lotus bud. His hands are both in the meditation gesture.

17th century, Tibet, karmapa, brass,

17th century, Tibet, karmapa, copper alloy, private collection, published on en-seercn.com.

Although the plain single cushion and plain garments are typical of the 17th century, it is more usual for a sculpture of that period to be lavishly gilt. We will also note the large lotus flower on top of his hat (otherwise decorated with the standard five-jewel design at the front, moon crescent and sun disc above). He holds a sutra in his left hand.

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