Western Tibet, peaceful Manjushri – variations

11th century circa, Western Tibet, Manjushri, copper alloy with cold gold and coral inlay, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

11th century circa, Western Tibet, Manjushri, copper alloy with cold gold and coral inlay, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

When seated, white Manjushri normally does the varada mudra with his right hand, occasionally he does the  abhaya mudra. This was probably the case with the above sculpture, which depicts him seated on an unusual lotus base with four rows of petals and very large beading at the bottom. He holds a manuscript in his right hand. His (broken) celestial scarf forms an arch behind him before passing under his arms and flowing upwards. It is decorated with incisions and stippled dots, the end is shaped like a fishtail and a kind of heart on the inside. He wears a Kashmiri-style crown with crescent moons – the foliate panels secured with a rod at the back – some princely jewellery inlaid with coral, a sacred thread, an ankle-length dhoti decorated with a stippled motif and held in place with a belt made of large beads. The lobed abdomen is typical of the Kashmir area.

11th century, Western Tibet, Manjushri, brass with cold gold and pigments, at the American Museum of National History.

11th century, Western Tibet, Manjushri, brass, at the American Museum of National History.

Standing on a cushion over a single-lotus base with incised petals, atop a Kashmiri-style throne supported by snow lions and a yaksha, framed by a flaming mandorla topped with Kirtimukha, White Manjushri holds the stem of a blue lotus topped with a manuscript in his left hand and does the abhaya mudra (fear-allaying gesture) with his right hand. He wears simple jewellery, a sacred thread, a low tiara decorated with side bows, a dhoti shorter on one side revealing prominent knee caps and held in place with a belt. His face has been painted with cold gold and pigments, his hair dyed with lapis lazuli powder and topped with a finial.

Undated, same as before.

Undated, Tibet?, same as before.

This very similar image appears to have been made by the same artist but the facial features are quite different, especially the eyes. The front panel of the crown and the Kirtimukha figure are a different size, his lotus only has four petals and his wears armbands.

11th century circa, Western Tibet, White Manjushri, brass, at the Philadelphia Museum.

11th century circa, Western Tibet, White Manjushri, brass, at the Philadelphia Museum.

Inspired by the Pala Indian style, the artist has depicted Manjushri standing on a small double-lotus pedestal, his hands doing the dharmacakra mudra, a tall lotus stemming from the base and supporting a manuscript to his left. He wears a dhoti longer on one side and held in place with a small festooned belt plus a thin sash loosely knotted low down across the thighs. He has an unusual crown with a crescent moon on the front panel and prominent side bows, some simple jewellery and a long sacred thread. His face is painted with cold gold and pigments, the eyes imitate the Indian silver-inlaid ones.

13th century, Tibet, Manjushri, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

13th century, Tibet, Manjushri, brass, Pala school, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

The tall crown, the rigidity of the legs and the prominent knee cap indicate that this may have been made in Western Tibet, although the stern glance, the sharp nose and the small lips, along with a few other details such as the punched holed for the navel, point to an Indian school.

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2 thoughts on “Western Tibet, peaceful Manjushri – variations

  1. These are wonderful… I love the top one with such a peaceful, open face… his broken arm seems to make him more accessible as if he too has lived a hard life.

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