Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara (4)

Undated, Tibet or India, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy with cold gold, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy with cold gold, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This rare sculpture depicts 11-head Avalokiteshvara with 8 arms seated on a double-lotus base typical of the 11th-12th century Pala style, his torso rather stiff (unlike Indian Pala-period bodhisattvas), the heads painted with cold gold. On early sculptures, the arrangement for the stack of heads is often three peaceful ones at the bottom, 3+3+1 wrathful ones (or a mixture of both, the last one being Mahakala’s head) and buddha Amitabha’s head on top. This one has 9 peaceful faces and the buddha’s head on top.

11-12th c?, Tibet? 11-head Avalokiteshvara, c.a.+cold g, close up

His main hands do the prayer mudra, the other left hands hold a lotus flower (secured with a rod), a bow and a book, two of his right hands hold a rosary and an eight-spoke wheel, the lower hand does the varada mudra (gesture of generosity).

11-12th c?, Tibet? 11-head Avalokiteshvara, c.a.+cold g, lotus+antelope skin

He wears a tiny antelope skin, the head and one leg resting over his left shoulder.

Undated (16th century circa?), Tibet, polychrome wood, same as before.

Undated, Tibet, polychrome wood, same as before.

This wooden sculpture depicts him with nine peaceful heads, a wrathful one with a flaming halo and Amitabha’s head on top. He wears a Nepalese-style lower garment and broad sash typical of the Malla period.

16th c?, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, 8 hands, wood, antelope skin

He has the same type of (Chinese-style) earrings, jewellery and five-leaf crown with a floral design as a 16th century bodhisattva on show at the Musée Guimet, with softer facial features and a large raised urna on his forehead. The head of the antelope skin over his shoulder is quite detailed and prominent.

15th-16th c?, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, 8 hands, wood, flaming head

Last but one, Mahakala’s head has a flaming halo that extends behind Amitabha’s head.

18th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, at the Birmingham Museum of Art (UK).

18th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, at the Birmingham Museum of Art (UK).

This late works depicts Avalokiteshavara in his 11-head and 1000 arm form. His heads (of a total height unusually superior to his body) are all peaceful and topped with Mahakala’s and Amitabha’s head. The many arms that span around him are cast separately and attached to the back. He stands on a double-lotus base over a throne supported by lions. His main hands are folded in prayer, five of the other main hands hold attributes including a lotus flower, a bow, a pot of water, a rosary. The lower right hand does the varada mudra.

Same as before, private collection, photo by Skinner.

Same as before, private collection, photo by Skinner.

On many late sculptures his arms are joined together, spanning out like wings behind him, except for the eight arms that hold attributes or do a mudra.

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