Tibet, Avalokiteshvara – seated (2)

14th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with turquoise and coral inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Avalokiteshvara in his padmapani (lotus bearer) form, with an effigy of Amitabha in his headdress.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, metal, at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (USA).

The bodhisattva of compassion is seated at royal ease (see the new section on leg poses added to the Hand Gestures page in the left-hand column of this blog), his right arm resting over the raised knee, the left arm placed on the lotus base. We can see the skin of an antelope over his left shoulder and an effigy of Amitabha in his headdress, two attributes of Avalokiteshvara in his padmapani form. He may have held the stem of a lotus, now missing, in his left hand.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay and pigment, private collection, photo by Koller.

This Avalokiteshvara has no effigy of Amitabha in his headdress, no antelope skin, no lotus, and no crown, yet the Khasarpana form would have matted hair cascading and both hands doing the dharmacakra (turning the wheel of dharma) gesture.  It may be that he has lost his crown or that this is a lesser known of the very many forms of this deity.

17th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, also labelled ‘Male on a cow’, by Chöying Dorje, copper and cold gold, is or was in Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

The rosary in his right hand and the lotus in the other identify this figure as Avalokiteshvara. The very creative 1oth karmapa has given him an unusual hairstyle sometimes seen on sculptures of Tara, which consists in gathering all the hair in a bunch worn on one side.

 

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Tibet, Avalokiteshvara – odd forms

Undated (16th century circa?), Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, wood and cold gold, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated (16th century circa or later), Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, wood and cold gold, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This looks like a later version of a Nepalese-style three-headed bodhisattva at the Cleveland Museum of Art, thought to be a form of Avalokiteshvara (published in a previous post and reproduced further down for comparison).

3-head Avalokiteshvara, undated, Tibet, wood+cold gold, close up

This one, however, has Chinese-style facial features and, instead of a large flower with 4 pointed petals, the earrings are like a large circle with a small triangular pendant, a design often seen on Tibetan sculptures of bodhisattvas from the 16th century onwards.

10th-12th century, Tibet or Western Himalayas, Avalokiteshvara, wood, at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

10th-12th century, Tibet or Western Himalayas, Avalokiteshvara, wood, at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

On both pieces, the top of the heads looks truncated, without a chignon, as if they formed part of a post or of a composition with something else (more heads) on top.

12th century circa, Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara Chaturbhuja, copper alloy with copper inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

12th century circa, Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara Chaturbhuja, copper alloy with copper inlay, private collection, published on http://www.asianart.com.

This form of the deity with one head and four (rather large) hands is unusual because the position of the hands doesn’t correspond to any common form. His main hands do the dhyana mudra (meditation gesture), his other right hand does the gesture of supreme generosity, there is a lotus bud is attached to the elbow. The other left hand holds the stem of a lotus flower topped with a ritual pot of water while doing the karana mudra (to ward off evil). He is seated on a double-lotus base with plump petals associated with Western Tibet (especially around the 14th century). He wears simple jewellery and an ankle-length dhoti knotted around the waist, the lower hem inlaid with copper. His broken crown reveals what has been interpreted as a naga hood. This feature (normally associated with the historical buddha in allusion to the Mucalinda legend) is usually formed by the nimbus over his head.

17th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, brass with cold gold and pigments, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

17th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, brass with cold gold and pigments, Seer Photographic Collection on Himalayan Art Resources.

This sculpture is attributed to Choying Dorge, the 10th karmapa, who had a particularly innovative style. Avalokiteshvara is seated on a young cow, both legs pendant, his feet resting on a Swat Valley-style double-lotus base. Two attendants kneel at his feet as on early Kashmiri works. He holds a flower in his right hand and the stem of a lotus and a water pot in the other. There is a halo behind him topped with a fruit tree.

Western Tibet, Avalokiteshvara Shadbhuja

11th century circa, Western Tibet, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Shadbhuja, brass with pigments, at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

11th century circa, Western Tibet, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Shadbhuja (6 arms), Kashmir school, brass with pigments, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

Labelled Avalokiteshvara, this bodhisattva could also be Amoghapasha Lokeshvara. He is sitting on a lion throne backed with a Kashmir-style double mandorla with incised flames, his left foot resting on a lotus flower. The effigy of Amitabha in the central panel of his small crown and the antelope skin resting on his left shoulder and knotted across his chest are features common to both deities. He has a tall Indian-style chignon and several strands of hair falling over his shoulders on both sides. The abdomen is vaguely “lobed” in the Kashmiri fashion but the navel is a large punched hole rather than the usual cruciform shape. He is wearing an incised dhoti that reaches below knee level, held in place with a belt, some simple jewellery – no anklets, a thick garland typical of Western Tibet and several attributes in his hands (lasso, thunderbolt, fly whisk in his right hands, pot of water, lotus and vajra-hook in the others), which  are  the attributes of Amoghapasha Lokeshvara. Generally thought to be an aspect of Avalokiteshvara, Amoghapasha is regarded by some experts as a different deity (see Jeff Watts’s comments on the Rubin Museum Art website, the link is in the left-hand column).

The face, with wider features than Kashmiri ones, has been painted with cold gold and the hair with lapis lazuli powder, in the Tibetan fashion.