On this dark bronze/copper alloy work, the historical buddha holds his left hand in the meditation gesture, his right hand above the knee, calling Earth to witness.
He has Kashmiri-style facial features, with a strong brow line that merges into the nose, thick and well-defined hair curls and a low chignon topped with a small lotus bud finial. One end of his see-through robe forms a series of wavy pleats over his left shoulder.
This is a rare type of Himalayan sculpture, on which the artist has used brass for the uncovered parts of the body and copper for the rest. There is cold gold and pigments on the face, lapis lazuli powder on the hair, probably repainted more recently. A few transversal incisions indicate the folds of the sanghati. The nails on the buddha’s delicate hands, and the skin around them, are neatly delineated.
This brass image depicts him with his right hand held palm out, in the gesture of supreme generosity.
There is what looks like an embossed eight-petal lotus in the palm of his hand (rather than a wheel).
Many Tibetan metal casts include copper inlay for the hem of the sanghati and silver inlay for the eyes and urna of the buddha.
Sometimes, copper is also used for the lips and uncovered nipple.
During the Nepalese Malla period, Newar artists produced a large amount of fire-gilt copper or copper alloy sculptures for Tibetan patrons and monasteries, and so did Chinese workshops when the Yongle Emperor embraced buddhism.
Nevertheless, the Tibetans still had a taste for less showy, more spiritual works, and continued to commission or produce un-gilt sculptures. The above has a transparent robe with a copper-inlaid hem decorated with an incised motif.
Occasionally, we come across a dark bronze/copper alloy sculpture with the face painted with cold gold and pigments and the hair dyed with lapis lazuli powder, a feature which may have been added long after the piece was made.
In Tibet, parcel-gilding is rarely found and the gilding is usually applied on the uncovered body parts (whereas in China it is the other way round, i.e. plain metal for the body, gilding for the clothes).