Tibet, Nairatmya (3)

Undated (14th century?), Tibet, Nairatmya, copper alloy with turquoise inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This female buddha and meditational deity may be depicted with a dakini appearance, standing on her left foot over a victim, wielding a flaying knife above her head and holding a skull cup at heart level, a ritual staff in the crook of her left arm, as above. This particular sculpture is identical in style to a 14th century sculpture of Hevajra published in a previous post, including the design of the double lotus base, derived from the Indian Pala style, and the way the flaming hair forms a mitre-like shape (it could well be that the two sculptures came out of the same workshop, especially as Nairatmya is Hevajra’s consort). She has no half-vajra finial on her head but holds a vajra sceptre in her right hand instead. Her two necklaces, bone apron, teeth and skull crown are made of silver.

The star-like incisions on her lower garment tell us that it is made of leopard skin ( a flame-like design would indicate a tiger skin loin cloth). Her garland has a row of freshly severed heads at the centre and only a few other heads along the string.

16th-17th century, Tbet, Nairatmya, gilt copper alloy with gems, private collection, photo by Nagel

This later version marries the Nepalese Malla style famous for its rich gilding and abundant stone inlay with the Chinese taste for festooned accessories and serpentine scarves and ribbons. Her ritual staff includes a horizontal vajra sceptre, two human heads and one skull, topped with an upright vajra sceptre. The harmonious body proportions are enhanced by the way her knees are held in a diagonal axis.

Undated, Tibet, Nairatmya, metal, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Nairatmya may also be depicted seated at ease over a victim. Exceptions apart, she has three eyes, wears a five-skull crown with foliate panels on each skull, and holds her flaying knife and skull cup at heart level.

Undated, Tibet, Nairatmya, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

A variant, with the skull cup held lower down.

Undated, Tibet ,Nairatmya, gilt metal with cold gold and pigments, same as before.

This one wears a tiger or leopard skin loin cloth held in place with a belt. She sits on a single lotus with large round petals and has a stone (and coral?) inlaid skull-crown with a much larger panel at the centre.

 

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