Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara (5)

7th-8th century (or later?), Western Tibet or China, Avalokiteshvara, Tang dynasty style, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

A curious image of the eleven-head Avalokiteshvara, with Chinese facial features and silks, standing on a lotus with artichoke leaves typical of the Swat Valley, over a lotus pedestal with heart-shaped leaves associated with Western Tibet/Western Himalayas. The nine heads arranged around his chignon plus Mahakala’s and Amitabha’s on top are unknown in the Tibetan iconography, but there is at least one  Chinese wooden example at the Art Institute of Chicago, dated 9th century, which has six hands – the above only has two.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy (brass) with turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

In Tibet (and Nepal), his nine heads are stacked in three tiers of 3, topped with Mahakala’s and Amitabha’s. He usually wears several layers of silk down to his ankles and has 6 or 8 hands. His main hands are held in prayer at heart level.

On the eight-arm version, the lower right hand is held in the gesture of supreme generosity, the lower left holds a pot of water, as above.

The upper hands hold a rosary and a lotus, the middle ones a wheel and a (missing) bow. There is an antelope skin over his shoulder (labelled and often referred to as ‘Krishnasa deer’ in allusion to a legend about Krishna and a deer, but the horns are those of an antelope). His jewellery is inlaid with large turquoise cabochons.

15th-16th century, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, gilt copper alloy with pigments and turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

A similar image, with harmonious facial features, richly gilt, with a festooned belt over the two-tiered garment.

Same as before, photo by Galerie Petillon.

This Chinese-style figure departs from the traditional iconography in several ways: the heads are stacked in groups of 3+3++2+2+1; among the attributes, the bow has been replaced by a bunch of gems (triratna). Apart from that, the triple lotus base and the long skirt-like garment worn over a knee-length dhoti are unusual. We will note that, like the first image, the long garment has a broad strip that goes across the thighs, in imitation of the Nepalese sash.

 

14th century, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Another variant is the 11-head Avalokiteshvara with 1000 arms, eight main ones plus a number of others (usually 50) arranged in a circle around him.

On all these, Avalokiteshvara’s main head is normally peaceful while the others can be a combination of peaceful, semi-wrathful, wrathful, or all peaceful, or all wrathful.

 

 

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Tibet, 3 Avalokiteshvara sculptures

12th-13th century, Tibet, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, brass, at Alain Bordier Foundation

12th-13th century, Tibet, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, brass, at the Alain Bordier Foundation (Switzerland).

This sculpture, of exceptional beauty and crafstmanship,  was erroneously described as a rare form of Avalokiteshvara in a previous post. On the enlightening Himalayan Art Resources website, there are another two similar sculptures in the “eleven-head” Avalokiteshvara section and although no dating or explanations  are offered, it is obvious that they are related. Further research has confirmed that when Avalokiteshvara is depicted with three heads he only has two hands. In this case, the position of the eight hands corresponds to the eleven-head form of the deity, we may therefore assume that there was a stack of 3+3+1+1+heads on top the three main ones. This would also explain the lack of chignon and the low height of the crowns.

The sculpture combines soft moon-like Tibetan facial features with Nepalese and Indian-style garments and accessories. His jewellery is inlaid with turquoise and coral, most popular in Tibet. His ankle-length dhoti reveals prominent knee caps reminiscent of early Ladakhi/West Tibetan  sculptures. It may have been the model for a (Tibetan) 15th century dark copper alloy eleven-head Avalokiteshvara published last year, who wears similar clothing including the short cloth apron-like accessory with beading.

Undated (13th century circa?), Tibet, Amoghapasha Lokeshvara, copper alloy with pigments and stone inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara,  private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This very similar image is made of a darker copper alloy. This type of clothing recalls sculptures from the early Malla period (Nepal, 13th-15th century) but there is no sash around the hips and the skirt-like garment at the back is more evenly folded and has a more regular hem.

13thc?, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, 3 or 5 heads 8 arms, c.a.+cold g.+pig.+stones, close up

His face has been painted with cold gold and pigments, there are traces of lapis lazuli powder in his hair, the rim of his five-leaf crown is painted with red pigment. His princely jewellery is inlaid with stones of different colours.

Undated, Tibet, Amoghapasha Lokeshvara, copper alloy, same as before

Undated, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy?, same as before.

On this other example he holds a rosary and a lotus flower with the stem tied like a noose or pasha in his upper hands. There is/was a Pala-style 13th-14th century sculpture of Manjushri with a similar three-tier lower garment fastened with a belt at the Lima Lakhang in Lhasa (published by Ulrich von Schroeder).

13th c?, Tibet, Amoghapasha, 3 heads, 8 arms, noose

One of the attributes in his middle hands is a lotus bud tied like a noose. This attribute is related to Amoghapasha, a deity related to Avalokiteshvara and sometimes an aspect of Avalokiteshvara, but the three-headed form of Amoghapasha (on paintings) has 2, 4 or 12 arms, not 8.

 

Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara (4)

Undated, Tibet or India, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy with cold gold, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy with cold gold, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This rare sculpture depicts 11-head Avalokiteshvara with 8 arms seated on a double-lotus base typical of the 11th-12th century Pala style, his torso rather stiff (unlike Indian Pala-period bodhisattvas), the heads painted with cold gold. On early sculptures, the arrangement for the stack of heads is often three peaceful ones at the bottom, 3+3+1 wrathful ones (or a mixture of both, the last one being Mahakala’s head) and buddha Amitabha’s head on top. This one has 9 peaceful faces and the buddha’s head on top.

11-12th c?, Tibet? 11-head Avalokiteshvara, c.a.+cold g, close up

His main hands do the prayer mudra, the other left hands hold a lotus flower (secured with a rod), a bow and a book, two of his right hands hold a rosary and an eight-spoke wheel, the lower hand does the varada mudra (gesture of generosity).

11-12th c?, Tibet? 11-head Avalokiteshvara, c.a.+cold g, lotus+antelope skin

He wears a tiny antelope skin, the head and one leg resting over his left shoulder.

Undated (16th century circa?), Tibet, polychrome wood, same as before.

Undated, Tibet, polychrome wood, same as before.

This wooden sculpture depicts him with nine peaceful heads, a wrathful one with a flaming halo and Amitabha’s head on top. He wears a Nepalese-style lower garment and broad sash typical of the Malla period.

16th c?, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, 8 hands, wood, antelope skin

He has the same type of (Chinese-style) earrings, jewellery and five-leaf crown with a floral design as a 16th century bodhisattva on show at the Musée Guimet, with softer facial features and a large raised urna on his forehead. The head of the antelope skin over his shoulder is quite detailed and prominent.

15th-16th c?, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, 8 hands, wood, flaming head

Last but one, Mahakala’s head has a flaming halo that extends behind Amitabha’s head.

18th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, at the Birmingham Museum of Art (UK).

18th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, at the Birmingham Museum of Art (UK).

This late works depicts Avalokiteshavara in his 11-head and 1000 arm form. His heads (of a total height unusually superior to his body) are all peaceful and topped with Mahakala’s and Amitabha’s head. The many arms that span around him are cast separately and attached to the back. He stands on a double-lotus base over a throne supported by lions. His main hands are folded in prayer, five of the other main hands hold attributes including a lotus flower, a bow, a pot of water, a rosary. The lower right hand does the varada mudra.

Same as before, private collection, photo by Skinner.

Same as before, private collection, photo by Skinner.

On many late sculptures his arms are joined together, spanning out like wings behind him, except for the eight arms that hold attributes or do a mudra.

Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara (3)

12th century circa, Western Tibet, brass, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

Circa 12th century, Western Tibet, brass, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

In the previous post there were two very similar sculptures of Manjushri, standing on the same type of Kashmiri-style throne with a flaming mandorla equally topped with Kirtimukha. This is Avalokiteshvara, with eleven heads and six hands, the left ones holding a water pot, a long-stemmed lotus and another attribute (usually a bow). His top right hand holds a fly whisk, the other two do the vitarka and the varada mudras. He wears an antelope skin knotted across his chest, the head of the animal hanging over his left shoulder.

13th century circa, Tibet, polychrome wood, private collection, photo by Christie's.

Circa 13th century, Tibet, polychrome wood, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

When depicted with 8 arms, his main hands do the prayer mudra and normally hold an effigy of Amitabha.

13th c. cir., Tibet, Eleven-head Avalokiteshvara, polyc. wood, 97,5 cm, close up

This one, made of wood (a tradition that came from Nepal as early as the 7th century) is adorned with very large earrings, simple jewellery and a garland. The head of the antelope skin rests over his shoulder.

13th c. cir., Tibet, Eleven-head Avalokiteshvara, polyc. wood, 97,5 cm, pot of water

He wears a Nepalese-style garment shaped like a skirt and holds a ritual water pot in his lower left hand. There is a flower incised in the palm of his other hand.

14th century, Western Tibet, gilt copper alloy with silver, copper and stone inlay, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

14th century, Western Tibet, gilt copper alloy with silver, copper and stone inlay, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

In his 1000-arm form, Avalokiteshvara has 8 arms as on the previous image and a circle of arms behind him with the hands doing the karana/tarjani mudra. There are some eyes in the palm of his hands and one of them usually holds a lotus.

15th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie's.

15th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

On this sculpture, two of his hands hold a long celestial scarf which acts as a frame and one of his upper hands holds a flower.

Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara (2)

15th century, brass, private collection on Himalayan Art Resources.

15th century, brass, private collection on Himalayan Art Resources.

When depicted with 11 heads and 8 arms, Avalokiteshvara normally has 3 rows of peaceful heads stacked on one another+ Mahakala’s head+ buddha Amitabha’s head. His main hands are in a prayer gesture at heart level, he has a lotus, a bow and a water pot in the remaining left hands, a rosary, dharma wheel in the top right hands, the lower one is along his body, palm open, doing the gesture of generosity.

15th c., Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, brass, incised dhoti

His long dhoti is  incised with a lotus motif and held in place with a festooned belt, the folds of the garment form a regular zig-zag shape down the front. It is complemented by a broad sash and a thin celestial scarf with similar pleating that ends in a three-point shape.

15th century, bronze with

15th century, Tibet, copper alloy with silver, copper and stone inlay, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

Occasionally, there may be a row of wrathful faces above the first row of peaceful ones, as on the above sculpture (all attributes missing).

16th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy with pigment and turquoise inlay, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

16th century, Central Tibet, gilt copper alloy with pigment and turquoise inlay, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

16th c., Central Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, antelope skin

He may have an antelope skin over his left shoulder. The black antelope skin is a symbol of Hindu origin. Avalokiteshvara wears it as a symbol of his love and compassion (in his bodhisattva appearance, Maitreya also wears one).

17th-18th century, Tibet, bronze with cold gold, pigment and stone inlay, at the Chicago

17th-18th century, Eastern Tibet, copper alloy with cold gold, pigment and stone inlay, at the Art Institute of Chicago.

This statue from Eastern Tibet displays Chinese features, especially in the treatment of the face but also in the draping, the style of the jewellery and the belt.

Tibet, a rare 11-head Avalokiteshvara

Circa 1500, Tibet, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, gilt copper alloy, published by Carlton Rochell

Circa 1500, Tibet, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, gilt copper alloy with stone inlay, published by Carlton Rochell.

This sculpture is very rare because when represented with 11 heads (9 bodhisattva heads, 1 Mahakala head, 1 buddha Amitabha head on top) Avalokiteshvara normally stands up. The aesthetics of it correspond to the Nepalese style, including the tall rectangular urna on his forehead. He has 4 pairs of hands, one in prayer, the others holding his attributes (a water pot, a bow and arrow and a lotus flower in his left hands, a dharma wheel, a rosary and an image of Amitabha in his right hands – the last two are missing on this one). His jewellery and crown are richly inlaid with turquoise and lapis lazuli stones.

Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara – 2 different styles

Late 15th-early 16th century, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, gilt bronze, at the Norton Simon Museum (USA)

Late 15th-early 16th century, Tibet, 11-head Avalokiteshvara, gilt bronze with copper and silver inlay, at the Norton Simon Museum (USA).

The bodhisattva is wearing a long, Indian-style patterned dhoti secured with a belt. The crowns on his nine heads and on Mahakala’s are gilt. He holds a water pot, a wheel of dharma, a bow, a rosary.

15th-16th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy inlaid with stones, pigment, private collection.

15th-16th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy inlaid with stones, pigment, private collection.

Here Avalokiteshvara is wearing a Nepalese-style lower garment with a stone-inlaid belt. His jewellery and crowns are also richly inlaid with turquoise. Amitabha’s hair, at the top, has been painted with lapis lazuli powder and there is some red pigment on Mahakala’s lips and hair (below).