Mongolia, Palden Lhamo

18th century, Mongolia, Palden Lhamo and Makaravaktra, copper with lacquer and pigments, at the Liverpool World Museum (UK).

Magzor Gyalmo, a one-head and two-hand form of Palden Lhamo, identified by the sun disc over her navel, the crescent moon in her flaming hair and the (white) corpse she chews, sits sideways on a kiang or a mule led by Makaravaktra; her son’s hide is used as a saddle. She holds a vajra-tipped sandalwood staff in her right hand (missing here) and a skull cup filled with blood and a mustard seed (or magic substances) in the other, and wears a tiger skin loin cloth and other wrathful ornaments including a garland of severed heads. What looks like mountain peaks on the base is the symbol for vermilion, used to represent a sea of blood.

18th century, Mongolia, Palden Lhamo, incense paste (pulp from the bark of the incense tree, presumably) and pigments, at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The same deity, chewing a brown corpse. In Tibet, she usually wears two different earrings, one is a lion the other a snake. The above wears hoops with a foliate pendant that matches the panels of her crown.



Mongolia, wrathful forms (6)


18th century, Mongolia, Achala, gilt bronze (copper alloy), Zanabazar school, private collection, photo by Armand Antiques.

White Achala, with 3 eyes and a gaping mouth revealing sharp fangs, half crouching half kneeling, brandishes a vajra-handled sword in his right hand and holds a lasso in the other while doing a gesture to ward off evil (karana mudra). He wears a long snake tied across his belly as a sacred thread; the garland of severed heads is not part of the traditional iconography for this aspect of the deity.

18th century, Mongolia, Begtse Chen, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Crushing a horse with his right foot and a human with the other, Begtse Chen would typically wield a scorpion-hilted sword (broken here) and hold a  wrenched heart. He traditionally wears a cuirass, partially covered with a long silk garment, thick felt boots, a garland of severed heads. The flaming hair going sideways is typical of the place and period. He wears a silk cummerbund engraved with a geometrical pattern and a curious belt with a long leaf-shaped object hanging down, reminiscent of the fish pendants we have seen on Chinese-style guardian kings made in Tibet.

18th century, Inner Mongolia, Mahakala, bronze, published by Becker Antiques.

In his one-head four-hand form Mahakala may be alone or with his consort; his top hands normally hold a sword and a drum, the other hands hold a flaying knife and a skull cup behind the consort’s back. Apart from the elephant hide in his upper hands, another abnormal feature here is the presence of snakes (nagas) under his feet. He would normally trample a human victim or the elephant-headed deity Ganapati.



Mongolia, various buddhas (4)

18th century, Mongolia, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze (copper alloy), attributed to Zanabazar, at the Choijin temple in Ulaan Baatar (Mongolia), photo by Daniel Waugh, on

Draped in Chinese silk garments, the historical buddha is seated on a lotus throne with an intricate Nepalese-style back panel including mythical creatures and a garuda at the top. He holds a begging bowl in his left hand and calls Earth to witness his enlightenment with the other.

18th century, Mongolia, Akshobhya, gilt bronze (copper alloy), Zanabazar school, at the Choijin temple in Ulaan Baatar (Mongolia), photo by Daniel Waugh, on

Akshobhya in his bodhisattva appearance, identified by the upright vajra sceptre in his left hand, his face painted with pigments, is adorned with accessories inlaid with turquoise and clear gems. He wears a thin scarf and a tight-fitting lower garment with the tail end arranged in a scallop shape over the lotus base.

18th-19th century, Mongolia, Amitayus, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Florence Number Nine.

Amitayus holds his hands in the meditation gesture to support a (missing) long-life vase. His two-tier hair bun is topped with a lotus and flaming jewel finial, the long scarf or shawl goes over the front of the lotus seat supported by a tall conical base with a plain rim and three tiers incised with scrolling vegetation and a geometrical design similar to the symbol used to represent vermilion in Buddhist art.




Mongolia, Maitreya

16th-17th century, Mongolia, Maitreya, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with turquoise and coral inlay, at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart (Germany).

This standing statue of Maitreya in his bodhisattva appearance depicts him with a long Nepalese-style two-tier garment with an incised border, held in place with a beaded belt with festoons and pendants. He holds the stem of large flowers with four sharp leaves each, his right hand expressing supreme generosity, the other doing the teaching gesture.

18th century, Mongolia, Maitreya, gilt copper alloy with cold gold and stone inlay, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (USA).

Maitreya is identified by the water pot supported by the flower on his left side and the stupa in his headdress (embossed on the ornament that tops his chignon).

18th-19th century, Mongolia, Maitreya, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Bonhams.

On this late work with sharp outlines and flat foliage, the blue lotuses he holds are topped with a dharma wheel (to his right) and a ritual water pot (to his left).

Labelled late 18th century, Mongolia, Maitreya, silver alloy, photo credits unknown, published on pinterest.

Maitreya is seated on a throne with a back plate topped with a garuda accompanied by rather modern-looking elf-like creatures, his feet resting on a lotus whose design is unusual for the place and period, his hands ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘ and holding the stem of lotuses, one of them with a ritual water pot on it. His princely accessories are inlaid with pearls, turquoise and clear gems. Below a tall crown, placed high up on the head, a series of festoons and pendants adorn his forehead. The plinth supporting the throne is decorated with vajra sceptres and the seat has a pattern of what may be mountains at the back.

Mongolia, a few rare images

17th century, Mongolia, Avalokiteshvara, Khasarpani, gilt bronze (copper alloy), Zanabazar school, private collection, photo by Arman Antiques.

We have seen the Indian iconography of the khasarpani form of Avalokiteshvara with a tall chignon and locks cascading on the sides, no crown, his hands ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘. The above does the gesture of generosity with the right hand and the gesture of teaching with the other while holding foliage (flowers possibly missing?), more in line with his padmapani form but without the attributes associated with it (lotus flower, antelope skin on left shoulder, effigy of Amitabha in crown).

18th century, Mongolia, Jambhala, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Armand Antiques.

This is a rare sculpture of Jambhala in his peaceful (yellow) form holding a jewel-spitting mongoose in his left hand and a lemon in the other, his right foot placed on a conch shell over a long-life vase. A lotus attached to the rim of the base supports a bowl filled with jewels and his conical chignon is covered with more jewels.

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Maitreya, gilt bronze (copper alloy), Licchavi revival style, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This masterpiece depicts Maitreya seated at ease on a Nepalese-style lotus base typical of the Licchavi period, holding a rosary in his left hand and a flower in the other, in a singular manner over his right shoulder. There is a small antelope skin on the other side and all these attributes could also correspond to Avalokiteshavara, but the stupa in his headdress identifies him as Maitreya, in his bodhisattva appearance.


Mongolia, various buddhas (3)

18th century, Mongolia, Amitayus, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Adorned with princely accessories, Amitayus is seated on a lotus base typical of the Zanabazar school,  holding a long-life vase in both hands.

There is a small effigy of Amitabha in his headdress and a flaming pearl on his chignon.

Undated, Mongolia, Amitayus, gilt metal, at a temple in Ulaan Baatar (Mongolia) photo by the Tibetan Mongolian Museum Society.

Although this work is probably far more recent, the quality of the craftsmanship and the design of the crown, flaming jewel finial and delicate necklace on this statue recalls a group of 17th century sculptures at the Zanabazar Museum (published in a previous post).

18th century, Mongolia, Amitayus, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Proantic.The crown is placed unusually high on this buddha’s head and includes beaded festoons and pendants not normally associated with Mongolian art. The treatment of the hair curls and the design of the jewellery is also singular.

18th century, Mongolia, Dolonnor, Shakyamuni, gilt copper alloy cast and repoussé, turquoise, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Dolonnor statues are very different from the Zanabazar style as they were made with the repoussé technique and often included detachable elements.

This buddha displays Chinese-style the draping below the breast and a cloud-shaped breast plate, complemented by a tear-shaped turquoise cabochon.

18th century, Mongolia, Vajradhara, silver with turquoise inlay, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Vajradhara holds a vajra sceptre and a bell in his hands crossed over his heart, his crown placed high up on his head, all the accessories inlaid with large turquoise cabochons (The lotus base is likely to be earlier and of Nepalese or Tibetan origin).

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Vajradhara and consort, gilt copper alloy, Zanabazar school, private collection, photo credits unknown.

Mongolia, teachers

Undated (17th or 18th century), Mongolia, Padmasambhava, gilt copper alloy, published in Sattvas and Rajas, the culture and art of Tibet, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

This magnificent work shows Padmasambhava in full attire, wearing his usual lotus hat with a moon and sun symbol at the front and a vulture feather finial on top, some large earrings and a necklace, monastic garments made of silk that wrap his legs and feet completely, a vajra sceptre in his right hand and a skull cup containing a long-life vase in the other, a ritual staff propped against his left shoulder.

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Padmasambhava, lacquered wood, private collection, photo by Artcurial.

The vulture feather and the ritual staff are missing from this sculpture but his distinctive hat and the attributes in his hand are enough to identify him. He is seated on a lotus base with a scalloped petal design also seen on works from Bhutan.

Undated (17th or 18th century), Mongolia, Gelugpa Lama, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Lempertz.

Apart from the outstanding craftsmanship and rich gilding, the Zanabazar school is famous for its innovative lotus base designs. The above belongs to a specific group, round or ovoid, with large upward going petals, usually with lacy contours, overlapping each other and including a series of fan-shaped stamens on the top row. Vertical stamens are engraved just below a row of  large beading.