Tibet, 3 Avalokiteshvara sculptures

12th-13th century, Tibet, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, brass, at Alain Bordier Foundation

12th-13th century, Tibet, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, brass, at the Alain Bordier Foundation (Switzerland).

This sculpture, of exceptional beauty and crafstmanship,  was erroneously described as a rare form of Avalokiteshvara in a previous post. On the enlightening Himalayan Art Resources website, there are another two similar sculptures in the “eleven-head” Avalokiteshvara section and although no dating or explanations  are offered, it is obvious that they are related. Further research has confirmed that when Avalokiteshvara is depicted with three heads he only has two hands. In this case, the position of the eight hands corresponds to the eleven-head form of the deity, we may therefore assume that there was a stack of 3+3+1+1+heads on top the three main ones. This would also explain the lack of chignon and the low height of the crowns.

The sculpture combines soft moon-like Tibetan facial features with Nepalese and Indian-style garments and accessories. His jewellery is inlaid with turquoise and coral, most popular in Tibet. His ankle-length dhoti reveals prominent knee caps reminiscent of early Ladakhi/West Tibetan  sculptures. It may have been the model for a (Tibetan) 15th century dark copper alloy eleven-head Avalokiteshvara published last year, who wears similar clothing including the short cloth apron-like accessory with beading.

Undated (13th century circa?), Tibet, Amoghapasha Lokeshvara, copper alloy with pigments and stone inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara,  private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This very similar image is made of a darker copper alloy. This type of clothing recalls sculptures from the early Malla period (Nepal, 13th-15th century) but there is no sash around the hips and the skirt-like garment at the back is more evenly folded and has a more regular hem.

13thc?, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, 3 or 5 heads 8 arms, c.a.+cold g.+pig.+stones, close up

His face has been painted with cold gold and pigments, there are traces of lapis lazuli powder in his hair, the rim of his five-leaf crown is painted with red pigment. His princely jewellery is inlaid with stones of different colours.

Undated, Tibet, Amoghapasha Lokeshvara, copper alloy, same as before

Undated, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy?, same as before.

On this other example he holds a rosary and a lotus flower with the stem tied like a noose or pasha in his upper hands. There is/was a Pala-style 13th-14th century sculpture of Manjushri with a similar three-tier lower garment fastened with a belt at the Lima Lakhang in Lhasa (published by Ulrich von Schroeder).

13th c?, Tibet, Amoghapasha, 3 heads, 8 arms, noose

One of the attributes in his middle hands is a lotus bud tied like a noose. This attribute is related to Amoghapasha, a deity related to Avalokiteshvara and sometimes an aspect of Avalokiteshvara, but the three-headed form of Amoghapasha (on paintings) has 2, 4 or 12 arms, not 8.



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