Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara – standing (5)

11th century circa, Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

11th century circa, Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang in Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

Unlike the other Kashmiri-style sculptures from Western Tibet that we have seen so far, this one depicts Avalokiteshvara with a thin celestial scarf  instead of a long garland going across his legs. He has no effigy of Amitabha in his crown or antelope skin over his shoulder, but he holds a large open lotus flower (with 16 petals) that helps us identify him. His tall crown is made of three crescent moons topped with a flower, with matching rosettes on the sides. His dhoti is shorter on one side and decorated with a stippled floral and geometrical motif. It is worth noting the deep incision below the knew cap, an unusual feature which we meet again below.

11th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy, private collection.

11th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy, private collection.

This completely different (Pala-style) work depicts him with a very low tiara, almost a headband, and a tall chignon with an effigy of Amitabha at the front. Apart from jewellery and a sacred thread, he wears a sash across his chest. His ankle-length dhoti is decorated with a stippled motif.

11th century, Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, gilt copper alloy and pigment, from the Bumper Collection.

11th century, Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, gilt copper alloy and pigment, from the Bumper Collection.

This masterpiece, with graceful body proportions, depicts the bodhisattva standing on a singular base consisting of a very large lotus flower with broad petals, one row lying flat.

11th c., Western Tibet, Padmapani, gilt c.a.+pig., close up+

He wears a tall three-leaf crown reminiscent of the Kashmiri crescent moon model but closer in style to the Ladhaki crowns, with large bows on the sides typical of Western Tibet. His Indian-style chignon is topped with a lotus flower and a gold finial. He is adorned with princely jewellery, a sacred thread and a long garland of black and red flowers. It is rare for an early West-Tibetan sculpture to be fire-gilt. He has a gentle squarish face with Tibetan facial features and a small raised urna quite a distance above his thin eyebrows.

11th c., Western Tibet, Padmapani, dhoti

It is also rare for it to have a partly painted lower garment (there are a few examples of copper-inlaid ones) and a polychrome garland (which may not be the original one). His dhoti  is worn very short and tightly fitting on one side, very long and loosely fitting on the other. It is decorated with an incised pattern and held in place with a very ornate belt with festoons, rosettes and jewels.

11th-12th century, Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, brass, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art (USA).

11th-12th century, Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, brass, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art (USA).

This type of crown, consisting of three triangular panels, is often seen on West Tibetan sculptures from the 11th-12th century onwards. The above has an effigy of Amitabha at the front. Avalokiteshvara’s well-developped chest and fine hands contrast with the strangled waist, tubular legs and square feet . His dhoti, shorter on one side and incised with a floral motif, is held in place with a belt whose buckle matches the rosettes on each side of his crown. He wears bulky floral earrings, beaded jewellery, an antelope skin knotted across the chest (the head unusually hanging below breast level), and a bulky garland of flowers. His facial features are a mixture of Kashmiri and Tibetan styles, with a sharp nose and pursed lips, large almond eyes, separate eyebrows and a raised urna above. There are three long strands of plaited hair neatly arranged over his shoulders, as on the item below.

Same as before, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie's.

Same as before, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This variant, with more harmonious body proportions, has a few added elements such as the sacred cord, a sash across the hips knotted on one side, another sash tightly fitted across the waist and decorated with an incised motif. His necklace, earrings and armbands have a floral design.

 

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