Tibet, Vairochana – seated (6)

13th century, Western Tibet, Vairocana, brass with cold gold and pigments, at the Palace Museum in Beijing (China).

13th century, Western Tibet, Vairocana, brass with cold gold and pigments, at the Palace Museum in Beijing (China).

Indian-style Tibetan sculptures with disproportionate head gear are often attributed to Western Tibet to due to their similarity with early murals found in various parts of Western Tibet and Ladakh, on which deities are coiffed with tall five-leaf crowns decorated with flowing ribbons and rosettes. The above has a particularly large finial on top of his chignon.

13th century, Western Tibet, Vairocana, copper alloy with traces of cold gold, private collection, photo by Christie's.

13th century, Western Tibet, Vairocana, copper alloy with traces of cold gold, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Sharp Kashmiri-style features and large floral earrings are also associated with Western Tibet.

14th century, Tibet, Vairocana, copper alloy, private collection, published on castorhara.com

14th century, Tibet, Vairocana, copper alloy, private collection, published on castorhara.com

The shape of the celestial scarf and the double-lotus base with large apple-like petals help date this piece. Along with the absence of gilding, they also point to Western Tibet although some scholars regard it as debatable.

14th century, Tibet, Vairocana, gilt copper alloy and stone inlay, at the Rietberg museum

14th century, Tibet, Vairocana, gilt copper alloy and stone inlay, at the Museum Rietberg in Zürich (Switzerland).

This richly gilt work portrays Vairocana with a half-vajra finial on his head, adorned with foliate jewellery, his medium-length dhoti held in place with a belt, his exaggeratedly long toes held at an awkward angle. The rectangular turquoise-inlaid urna on his forehead, the tiny gemstones that stud his accessories and the side loops on each side of his waist are typical of the Nepalese Malla period.

 

16th century, Tibet, Vairocana, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie's.

16th century, Tibet, labelled Vairocana, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This crowned buddha wears a Chinese-style patched robe that covers both shoulders but leaves part of the chest uncovered. He displays the ‘turning the wheel of dharma’ gesture associated with Vairocana, although Shakyamuni and Maitreya may also display it. He sits on a lotus, a wheel (cakra) placed in front of him, on a throne decorated with columns and a standing figure who faces him.

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