Mongolia, a few portraits (2)

18th century, Mongolia, a bogd gegeen [spiritual leader], possibly Zanabazar, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Wrapped in fine Chinese silk garments with an incised hem and wearing the pointed cap traditionally worn by Sakya lamas, this hierarch holds a vajra sceptre at heart level and a bell with a vajra handle. He sits on a plinth decorated with a double floral border.

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

Portrayed as a deified lama, holding the stem of lotuses that support a book and a sword, Tsong Khapa has a bowl in his left hand and does the gesture of teaching/debate with the other.

Same as before, Yeshe Dorje, same as before.

Yeshe Dorje (Zanabazar, in this context) is seated on two embroidered cushions covered with a blanket. He holds the same attributes as the bogd gegeen above.

18th century, Mongolia, Yeshe Dorje, gilt metal, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

We are told on the Himalayan Art Resources website that, according to common belief,  Zanabazar instructed his students to depict him with a vajra and a bell when the image was to be seen by religious practitioners. The rich gilding, soft facial features and large overlapping lotus petals on the base are typical of works coming out of his workshop. Instead of beading (to signify stamens) the top of the base is decorated with a floral motif.

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Padmasambhava and consorts, gilt copper alloy and pigments, from the Sandor P. Fuss collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

 

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Mongolia, White Chakrasamvara

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Chakrasamvara and consort, gilt copper alloy with pigments, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi

This form of Chakrasamvara is always seated in embrace with his consort, Vajravarahi, who holds a skull cup and a flaying knife or two vajras. He holds two vases of longevity (usually both in his right hand). He has three eyes, his chignon is topped with a flaming jewel, they are both adorned with jewellery. She wears a beaded  belt, with a flower design. His flat celestial scarf is neatly arranged behind him over the lotus base. The hem of his long dhoti is decorated with an incised motif,  the tail end of the garment is folded into a floral shape in front of him. The lotus base is typical of  works produced in Mongolia by Zanabazar or by the Zanabazar school.

Mongolia, a few portraits

18th century, Mongolia, Mahasiddha Naropa, gilt copper alloy with cold gold and pigment, photo by Bonhams.

18th century, Mongolia, Mahasiddha Naropa, gilt copper repoussé with cold gold and pigment, photo by Bonhams.

This idealised portrait shows the Indian teacher dressed in full monk’s robe, his hair tied up in a bunch topped with a lotus flower and painted with lapis lazuli powder (a practice that came from Tibet, like the use of cold gold on the face).

17th century circa, Mongolia, Zanabazar, gilt metal, private collection, photo by Rosse & Rossi.

Circa 17th century, Mongolia, Zanabazar, gilt metal, private collection, photo by Rosse & Rossi.

The artist holds a vajra in his right hand and a bell (ghanta) in the other. He is wrapped in monastic robe and seated on richly decorated cushions with a lotus motif. If this is indeed Zanabazar, the realistic and very individual facial features suggest that the sculpture was made during his lifetime (mid 17th to early 18th century), and perhaps even in his workshop.17th c. cir., Mongolia, Panchen lama, gilt metal, Zanabazar or school, Rossi&Rossi

Panchen lama, same as before.

This unidentified lama holds a bowl in his left hand and does the teaching or discussion gesture with the other (vitarka mudra). He wears a meditation cloak over his monastic robe, arranged into soft folds over his legs and around him. The single-lotus base has large flat overlapping petals going upwards, topped with incisions and a row of large beading to imitate the stamens of the flower very skillfully.

Mongolia, Zanabazar’s work

Late 17th century, Mongolia, Samvara and consort, gilt copper alloy, made by Mongolian artist Zanabazar

Late 17th century, Mongolia, Samvara and consort, gilt copper alloy, made by Mongolian artist Zanabazar.

Zanabazar, who lived at the end of the 17th century, is the most famous Mongolian buddhist artist. He produced works of excellent craftsmanship and enormous beauty and was imitated by many sculptors (said to be from the ‘Zanabazar school’). Body proportions are very harmonious, adornments are fine and detailed, the gilding is lavish and the style highly individual.

This represents Samvara in a tantric embrace with his consort, much smaller than him. His face is painted with cold gold and pigments, he wears the five-leaf crown of a buddha, his chignon is topped with a flaming jewel. The deity holds a vase of longevity in each hand. The design of the lotus base, adorned with beading and clasped foliage, is very singular.

The face is oval and the nose thin and pointed, in the Indian or Kashmiri fashion, the lips are small and the eyes half closed.

Mongolia (or Tibet), early works

14th century, Mongolia, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Padmapani, copper alloy with cold gold on face, at Zanabazar Museum

14th 19th century, Mongolia, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Padmapani, copper alloy with cold gold on face and pigments, at Zanabazar Museum (Ulan Bator)

The style recalls some 11th-12th century Tibetan brass statues with an equally tall chignon, rigid pose, flat billowing scarf, on a similar type of lotus base. Although labelled 14th century, it may be a more recent imitation.

PS: Some time after this was posted, the museum website labelled this piece ’19th century’.

14th century, Mongolia, Jambhala holding a fruit in his right hand and a mongoose spewing jewels out in the other, copper alloy, at the Zanabazar Museum

14th century, Mongolia, Jambhala holding a citrus fruit in his right hand and a mongoose spewing jewels out in the other, copper alloy, at the Zanabazar Museum (Ulan Bator)

Again, the style recalls 13th-14th century Tibetan works representing Jambhala and there is nothing at first sight to indicate that this was made in Mongolia, except perhaps for the shape of the arms.