Mongolia, a few wrathful entities

17th-18th century (or later?), Mongolia, Begtse Chen, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Arman Antiques .

Begtse Chen, clad in Mongolian armour and thick boots, stands on a horse and a human victim, brandishing a sword and holding the heart of an enemy of the faith. He is adorned with a five-skull crown and a garland of severed heads.

18th century, Mongolia, Begtse Chen, gilt bronze with pigment, private collection, photo by Galerie Zacke, 11th May 2019 lot 249.

Traditionally, the hilt of his sword is shaped like a scorpion.

18th-19th century, Mongolia, Mahakala, bronze, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 4021 lot 286, London.

An unusual depiction of Mahakala, standing straight instead of squatting, holding a flaying knife and a skull cup before his chest, the danda staff across his arms now lost.

18th century, Mongolia, Hayagriva, gilt bronze with copper repoussé, turquoise, coral, pigment, private collection, photo on Galerie Zacke .

The ‘secret accomplishment’ form of Hayagriva, particularly worshipped in Mongolia, with three heads, each with three eyes and a neighing horse’s head in the hair, six hands holding attributes and six or eight legs crushing nagas. He wears a tiger skin loin cloth, an elephant hide and a human hide over his back, skull crowns, stone-inlaid accessories including two Chinese-style ornaments with a wheel-of-dharma design, a snake used a sacred cord. Only his ritual staff and some flames remain in his hand, the latter possibly specific to Mongolia. His other attributes were likely a sword, a vajra sceptre, a lasso of intestine, a spear.

Mongolia, wrathful Vajrapani (2)

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt bronze with cold gold and polychromy, private collection, photo on Christie’s , New York.

Nilambadhara Vajrapani wields a vajra sceptre in his right hand and does a gesture associated with holding a lasso (karana mudra) now lost. He wears a tight-fitting tiger skin loin cloth knotted at the front, a celestial scarf with serpentine ends, a foliate crown and Zanabazar-style jewellery. The hair is gathered in a mitre-like shape.

18th century, Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo here  

Early 18th century, Inner Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt brass with lacquer and pigments, photo on asemus , at the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm (Sweden).

A Chinese-style example with spiky hair and gilt copper repoussé accessories, trading on snakes.

Mongolia, a few female entities (4)

18th century, Mongolia, Ushnishavijaya, gilt metal (copper alloy) with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo on HAR .

The ‘Victorious Goddess of the Ushnisha’ in her three-head and eight-arm form, each head with three eyes and a foliate crown, seated in the vajra position on a Zanabazar-style lotus base, holding in her main hands a visvajra and a lasso now lost. The top right hand holds an effigy of Amitabha, the one below normally clutches a vajra sceptre, the lower hand is in the gesture of supreme generosity. Her top left hand is in the fear-allaying gesture, the middle one once held a bow, the lower one supports a long-life vase.

18th century, Mongolia, Sitatapatra, gilt metal, at the Imperial Palace Museum in Beijing, photo on Himalayan Art Resources

The ‘White Parasol’ in her one-head and two-arm form, with her main attribute in her left hand. The right hand does the fear-allaying gesture.

18th century, (Mongolia?), Simhavaktra, parcel-gilt brass and copper, from the Musée Guimet in Paris (France), photo on feminismestyle  .

Since she has no crown or garland of severed heads, this lion-headed dakini is identified as Simhavaktra, who may have the same form as Simhamukha: standing on one leg and holding a flaying knife and a skull cup, a ritual staff propped against her left arm (all missing here).

18th century, Mongolia, Tara, gilt metal, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources

Green Tara, seated on a tall lotus base with a leg pendent, her left hand bestowing refuge (tip of the ring finger pressed on the tip of the thumb), the right hand in the boon-granting gesture.

18th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt bronze and turquoise inlay, private collection, photo on Christie’s

A variant with an effigy of Amitabha in her headdress.

18th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt metal, private collection, photo on HAR

The tall lotus base with a three-tier plinth and a row of beading at the top, the delicate embroidery on the hem of the garment, the beaded accessories and the foliate crown of this Green Tara are derived from Zanabazar’s very own style. She holds an open/day lotus in her right hand and a closed/night one on the other side.

Mongolia, unlabelled (circa 18th century, gilt copper alloy with cold gold and pigments), SRG archives, photo on HAR

A wrathful female with a third eye and bared fangs, her hair dyed blue, adorned with a lotus-bud crown and finial, her left foot placed on a lotus flower stemming from the base, holding a flaying knife and a skull cup.

Mongolia, Jambhala and others (2)

Circa 19th century, Mongolia, Jambhala (labelled ‘Kubera’), gilt bronze, photo on Matthew Barton .

Yellow Jambhala seated at ease on a lotus base with two smaller lotuses at the front to support a conch shell under his right foot and a bowl of jewels on the other side. He holds a mongoose in his left hand and a citrus fruit in the other. We have seen a few other similar sculptures, dated 18th century, on which he wears a tiara made of round jewels, princely jewellery, a thin scarf across his chest, an ankle-length dhoti, often with an embroidered border.

18th century, Mongolia, Hayagriva, copper, at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, photo on Himalayan Art Resources

Red Hayagriva, with three heads, each with a neighing horse’s head among his flaming hair and a skull crown,  six hands, eight legs trampling nagas. When depicted alone his attributes usually are a spear, a lasso of intestine, a vajra sceptre, a ritual staff, a sword, and one hand does a wrathful gesture. He wears a tiger-skin loin cloth, a human hide on his back (we can see the legs at the front) and an elephant skin over his shoulders, painted white in this case.

18th century, Mongolia, Vajrapani, polychrome copper repoussé, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s .

A very irate Nilambara/Nilambadhara Vajrapani identified by the garuda in his flaming hair. Clad in a tiger skin dhoti worn with the tail of the animal at the front, he brandishes a vajra sceptre in his right hand, the left hand is held in a wrathful gesture. This form of wrathful Vajrapani normally clasps a bell and treads on elephant-headed Bhut Aparajita or on two victims. He never wears a skull crown or a garland of severed heads and is adorned with snakes or serpentine jewellery.

18th or 19th century? (labelled ‘late Qing Dynasty), Mongolia, Vajrapani, polychrome bronze, private collection, photo by Nagel, sale 100 China 2.

Chanda Vajrapani, standing on a bed of snakes and surrounded with flames, wielding a vajra sceptre and holding a (missing) lasso, adorned with a five-skull crown, a garland of severed heads, bone and snake ornaments.

Mongolia, paired deities

18th century, Mongolia, White Chakrasamvara, gilt metal (with cold gold and pigment), private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources

A form of Samvara seated in embrace with his consort and holding a vase of longevity in each hand. As usual, his hair is adorned with a visvajra, a crescent moon and a sun disc, and topped with a wish-granting gem. He wears a foliate tiara with five skulls over his blue-black hair. Vajrayogini’s red flaming hair is covered with a beaded net and she probably holds a skull cup in each hand.  

18th century, Mongolia, Vajrabhairava, gilt metal, at the Imperial Palace Museum in Beijing, photo on HAR 

Vajrabhairava, identified by the central buffalo head, in his 9-head, 34-arm, 16-leg form, standing on gods and animals while embracing Vajravetali and holding multiple implements.

18th century, Mongolia, Hayagriva, gilt caste and repoussé bronze repoussé, photo on Christie’s, Paris.

Hayagriva, with a distinctive horse’s head in his flaming hair, in his ‘very secret accomplishment form’, with 3 heads, 6 arms, 4 legs and wings, stepping to the right on a demon and embracing his consort, a skull cup missing from his main left hand. The other missing implements would normally be a sword and a club and either a visvajra and a ritual staff or a noose and a hook.

Mongolia, a few portraits (5)

17th century (Mongolia?), Padmasambhava, zitan wood (red sandalwood) with gilding and lacquer, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s .

A rare wooden image of ‘Guru Rimpoche’, holding a vajra sceptre pointing to his heart and a skull cup traditionally containing nectar, jewels and a long-life vase, topped with a lotus flower in this case. His lotus hat  is topped with a half-vajra and a (missing) vulture feather. The multiple layers of lobed petals on the lotus base is a recurrent design in Mongolia and Bhutan.

17th-18th century (or later?), Mongolia, Padmasambhava, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo on  Arman Antiques  .

As a layman, he always has both arms covered and usually wears a cloud-shaped cape over his shoulders.

16th-17th century, Mongolia, Atisha, gilt bronze (copper alloy), at the British Museum (London, UK).

The Indian scholar is nearly always depicted with his hands in the teaching gesture (‘turning the wheel of dharma‘). He wears a pointed hat with long lappets and monastic garments that leave the right arm bare. The lotuses that were once fastened to his arms probably supported a stupa and a vase.

18th century, Mongolia, Tsongkapa, gilt metal, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources

Je Tsongkhapa is represented as a deified lama, holding the stem of lotuses that support the hilt of a sword and a manuscript. He wears fine Chinese silk garments and sits on a Yongle-style lotus base.

18th century, Mongolia, Je Tsongkhapa, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Kapoor Galleries .

18th century, Mongolia, Tsongkhapa, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Bukowskis.


Mongolia, teachers (2)

17th-18th century, Mongolia, lama, gilt bronze, at The British Museum (London, UK).

A classic portrait sculpture of a Tibetan teacher dressed in full monastic garb, holding a manuscript in his left hand, the right one raised in the gesture of debate. His soft silk garments are incised with a floral motif throughout.

18th century, Mongolia, lama, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Nagel, sale 105 China 1.

This lama with a vase of longevity in his hands is seated on a cushion atop an oval lotus base with overlapping scallop-shaped petals alternating with fanning stamens on the upper row and more stamens at the top – a design typical of Mongolia.

His thick meditation cloak has an engraved border and falls onto the base in a cascade of soft pleats.

18th century, Mongolia, Gelugpa lama, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Cloudswood

Coiffed with the red pandita hat of the gelugpas and seated on two cushions covered with a blanket, this one holds a small object between his hands – possibly a jewel.

18th century, Mongolia, gelugpa lama, gilt bronze, Zanabazar style, private collection, photo on HAR

An enigmatic figure with high cheekbones and a thin moustache, holding a vase of longevity in both hands.