Mongolia, Amitayus/Amitabha (3)

17th century, Mongolia, Amitabha, gilt copper alloy, photo by Koller.

17th century, Mongolia, Amitabha, gilt copper alloy, Zanabazar school, photo by Koller.

Amitabha is seated in the vajra position, his hands cupped to hold a bowl, on a tall double-lotus base typical of the period and area (although not the only design, as can be seen below). He has broad facial features, a tall V-shaped torso with round shoulders. One end of his upper garment is pleated over his left shoulder in a fishtail shape.

17th century, Mongolia, Amitayus, gilt copper alloy, at the Zanabazar Museum (Mongolia), published on Himalayan Art Resources.

17th century, Mongolia, Amitayus, gilt copper alloy, at the Zanabazar Museum (Mongolia), published on Himalayan Art Resources.

One of a set of  dyani buddhas thought to have been made by Zanabazar himself, this masterpiece depicts Amitayus, who holds a long-life vase and is adorned with a crown and jewellery. His tall chignon is topped with a flaming jewel. The harmonious facial features, the body proportions and this type of lotus base with upwards, overlapping petals are all representative of Mongolian works of that period.

Amitabha and Amitayus are two aspects of the same buddha. Traditionally, in sculpture, the former has a buddha appearance and holds a bowl, the latter has a bodhisattva (i.e. princely) appearance and holds a vase of longevity (but we have seen one with a bowl in a previous post). On paintings, they are distinguished through their different skin colour.

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