Kashmir, Avalokiteshvara with horse’s head

8th century, Kashmir, Avalokiteshvara, dark bronze, at the St Louis Museum of Art, photo published by Ian Alsop

8th century, Kashmir, Avalokiteshvara, dark bronze with silver inlay, at the St Louis Art Museum (USA), photo published by Ian Alsop, who dates it to the 9th-10th century.

This masterpiece depicts bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, identified through the image of Amitabha on the central panel of his crown and the lotus and water pot he holds in his left hands. Seated with a leg pendant, on a Swat Valley-style double-lotus base over a rocky formation, he also holds a thunderbolt or vajra (not a usual attribute of his) in his top right hand while the lower one does the generosity gesture or varada mudra. He has three crowned heads, each with three (silver-inlaid) eyes. The lips and nipples are inlaid with copper. He is adorned with a short necklace, lotus earrings, a snake in the guise of a sacred thread (a wrathful attribute), a belt with a lotus design, armbands and bracelets (no anklets). His transparent dhoti is shorter on one side. The horse’s head on top of his own is normally associated with Hayagriva, his wrathful form. We will  notice the delicate feet and hands, the harmonious facial features, the athletic body with perfect proportions, the balanced geometrical form of the composition.


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