Mongolia, Vajravarahi and Chakrasamvara

18th century, Mongolia, Vajravarahi, gilt copper alloy with stone inlay and pigments, private collection.

18th century, Mongolia, Vajravarahi, gilt copper alloy with stone inlay and pigments, private collection.

This form of Vajrayogini has the appearance of a dakini, her legs in a dancing posture, holding a sword or a flaying knife (missing here) in her right hand and a skull cup in the other. There should be a sow’s head sticking out of her own. She has a khatvanga resting on her left arm and is adorned with a garland of freshly severed human heads, a five-skull crown, Chinese-style jewellery and celestial scarf. There is a small buddha at the top of her orange flaming hair. She stands on a human corpse. Vajravarahi is the consort of Chakrasamvara.

18th century, Mongolia, Chakrasamvara, gilt copper alloy and pigments, private collection.

Chakrasamvara is rarely depicted on his own. This form has four heads, 2 legs, 12 arms. The hands crossed over his heart hold a thunderbolt and a bell (vajra and ghanta). His other hands hold the ends of an elephant hide behind his head, a flaying knife and a skull cup, an axe and a folded lasso, a trident and a staff (khatvanga), drums and severed heads. He is adorned with a skull crown, elaborate Chinese-style jewellery inlaid with turquoise, two animal skins around his waist, a belt with raining-jewel pendants. Each face has a third eye and bared fangs, the hair is gathered into a chignon topped with a gold finial. He stands on two victims (missing here).

 

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Mongolia, Green Tara (2)

18th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy, photo by Christie's.

18th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy, photo by Christie’s.

Green Tara holds the long stems of lotuses with her right hand in the varada mudra and the other in the kartari mudra, one leg pendant, the foot resting on a lotus  steming from the single-lotus base with a plaint plinths, upward-going serrated petals, incised filaments and anthers. She is adorned with a five-leaf crown, coarse beaded jewellery, sacred cord and belt, a coarsely pleated celestial scarf. The hem of her long dhoti is incised with a floral motif and scrolls. The eyes are neither inlaid with silver or painted.

same as before.

same as before.

The crudely carved facial features, bulky jewellery and incised hem of the lower garment, that covers part of the double-lotus base, are far-removed from the Zanabazar style. Only the double-lotus base is similar.

Mongolia, White Tara (2)

17th-18th century, Mongolia, White Tara, gilt copper alloy and pigment, photo by Christie's.

17th-18th century, Mongolia, White Tara, gilt copper alloy and pigment, Zanabazar style, photo by Christie’s.

White Tara is seated in the vajra position, doing the gesture of charity with her right hand and the gesture of discord with the other while holding the stem of a lotus flower.

17th-18th c., Mongolia, white Tara, gilt c.a., 24,7 cm, Zanabazar style, palms+soles incised, head

She has a third eye and an effigy of a buddha (probably Amitabha) in her headdress. Her tall Indian-style chignon is topped with a lotus bud finial. She wears a low crown with five lotus buds linked with beading and adorned with rosettes and wavy ribbons. Her large earrings are typical of the period and area. The hair and facial features are painted with pigments.

17th-18th c., Mongolia, White Tara, gilt c.a., 24,7 cm, Zanabazar style, palms+soles incised, torso

There is an eye in the palm of each hand and on the sole of each feet. Her tight-fitting upper garment  ends in a cascade of pleats across her chest.

Mongolia, Green Tara – two styles

18th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy, photo by Christie's.

18th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy, photo by Christie’s.

18th c., Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt c.a., 24,7 cm, Zanabazar style, lotus blossom

Seated with a leg pendant, Green Tara holds an upright vajra in one hand a large lotus blossom in the other. Her long dhoti is held in place with a jewelled belt.

18th c., Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt c.a., 12,7 cm, 3 eyes, face

She is adorned with a small crown, large earrings and coarse beaded jewellery. There is a piece of cloths folded into thick pleats over her left breast.

Late 17th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy, photo by Sotheby's.

Late 17th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy and pigments, thought to be from Zanabazar workshop, photo by Sotheby’s.

This is (an earlier and) far more elaborate sculpture which depicts her on a Pala-style double-lotus base with a large row of beading at the bottom and a richly incised tier at the top, holding two Pala-style lotuses and doing the varada mudra (charity) with her right hand and the kartari mudra (discord) with the other. Her face and the upper part of her body have been painted with white pigment, something rarely seen on metal sculptures.

incisions

Her long dhoti is richly incised with a lotus motif and held in place with a beaded belt. Her celestial scarf, folded into thick pleats, rests across her legs and over the sides of the Mongolian-style pedestal.

effigy

There is an effigy of Amitabha in her headdress and a raised oblong urna on her forehead.

Mongolia, Machig Labdron

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Machig Labdron, gilt copper alloy, Zanabazar school, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Machig Labdron, gilt copper alloy, Zanabazar school, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

This Tibetan tantric practitioner and buddhist teacher (1055-1149) is normally depicted as a dakini holding a drum in her right hand and a vajra bell in the other, adorned with a five-leaf crown, jewellery and a beaded belt or bone apron. Here she is seated with her legs loosely folded. She wears a five-skull crown and holds a skull cup full of blodd in her left hand. The ribbons of her crown and the ends of her celestial scarf flowing upwards in a serpentine shape, together with the cross belt she wears, show a Chinese influence. Her broad facial features, the shape of the torso and the tall double-lotus base are proper to Mongolian works of the late 17th-18th century, as we have seen in previous posts.

Mongolia, two consorts

17th century circa, Mongolia, Mandarava, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi

17th century circa, Mongolia, Mandarava, gilt copper alloy, Zanabazar school, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

If this is indeed Mandarava (usually depicted with a ritual arrow in her right hand and a long-life vase in the other) she holds a bowl in her right hand and a (now missing) object in the other. The lotus base with overlapping serrated petals and a row of thick beading and the upper part of her body are typical of Mongolian sculptures of that period, but they are not as refined and well defined as those produced by Zanabazar himself. The lower part of her body – with short legs folded loosely –  is  reminiscent of some Nepalese sculptures of the late Malla period (16th-18th century). She is adorned with coarse beaded jewellery and a crown with a foliate design. Her long transparent dhoti is held in place with a beaded belt, part of the cloth is resting on the base to her sides and under her ankles. Mandarava was a princess from Himachal Pradesh who became a Buddhist teacher and one of Padmasambhava’s main consorts.

Undated, (probably same as before), Yeshe Togyal, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, (probably same as before), Yeshe Tsogyal, from a mountain sanctuary, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Depicted in much the same way, including the celestial scarf with thick pleating across her left arm, Yeshe Tsogyal is adorned with beaded jewellery, a low tiara and a flaming jewel on top of her head. The lotus base has a plain rim and rounder petals. Allegedly one of Padmasambhava’s main consorts too, she may never have existed. She is regarded by some Tibetan buddhist schools as a female buddha and an emanation of Vajrayogini, Tara, or Sarasvati.

 

Mongolia, Tara by Zanabazar

17th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy, at the Winter Palace Museum, photo by Surun-Khanda Syrtypova.

17th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy, at the Winter Palace Museum (Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia), photo by Surun-Khanda Syrtypova.

This masterpiece, attributed to the great Mongolian artist Zanabazar, depicts Green Tara, one foot resting over a lotus flower attached to the base, each hand holding the long stem of an Indian Pala-style lotus flower and doing a symbolical gesture or mudra. Although inspired by the Indian Pala style, this type of double-lotus base is proper to Mongolia, and in particular to the  Zanabazar school. It consists of a lower part with a row of small beading and several tiers of plain metal followed by two rows of flat broad petals facing each other or slightly offset, the end of each petal softly curling up, and a row of large beading at the top. Her soft, warm facial features, reminiscent of Tibetan works and exquisitely painted with cold gold and pigments in the Tibetan fashion, are perhaps the most noticeable and pleasing aspect of this work.

Same as before.

Same as before.

This Green Tara’s facial expression, with a harder look and frowning eyebrows, and the style of her crown and ribbons, were inspired by Indian Pala works. It may have been made by someone else working with him (we will also notice the use of lapis lazuli powder rather than black pigment in the hair), or, he may have created it to suit a different taste/patron. In fact, the following piece is yet again in a different style.

Same as before, White Tara.

Same as before, White Tara.

White Tara sits in the vajra position and holds a lotus in her left hand. There is an eye incised in each of her palms. She sits with her back straight (in the Nepalese fashion) on a different type of lotus-base made of overlapping, upward-going semi-circular petals with a serrated edge, also typical of Mongolia. Her lower garment has incised stripes and a richly incised hem. The tail end is arranged into a scallop shape in front of her. Her thin celestial scarf rests over her left arm and drops behind her. She is adorned with the standard jewellery (necklaces, earrings, armbands, bracelets, anklets), belt, sacred thread, and a singular Nepalese-style crown with Kirtimukha at the base of the front panel.