Tibet, Phagpa Lokeshvara (4)

15th-16th century, Tibet, Phagspa Lokeshvara, polychrome wood, private collection, sale 14259 Christie’s, Paris.

A remarkable wood carving of this special form of Avalokiteshvara, standing on a double-lotus pedestal, his left hand placed on his left thigh, the right hand held down in an unusual position.

He has Tibetan facial features and wears a tall tripartite crown with an effigy of himself at the front,  large bell-shaped earrings, a long cloth belt with a floral buckle, a broad sash knotted on one side and with part of the cloth hanging rigidly next to his leg.

Phagpa Lokeshvara, wood, at the Zanabazar Museum in Ulaan Baatar (Mongolia).

Originally labelled ’16th century, Mongolia’ on the Tibetan Mongolian Museum Society’s website and consequently published in the Mongolian section of this blog, this sculpture is fairly similar to the previous one in shape and design and labelled ’19th century, Tibet’ on HAR , which is more likely.

Undated (labelled ’12th century’, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, polychrome wood with turquoise inlay and traces of paint, private collection, photo on Carter’s .

The use of turquoise inlay, the indeterminate effigy on his crown and the painted rather than sculpted facial features suggest a fairly recent date for this bodhisattva, whose small oval face, thin waist and discreet hair buns are closer in style to the original Nepalese sandalwood statue at the Potala than the previous items.

Circa 17th century, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, rock crystal, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources  in the Phagpa Lokeshvara section.

Published in a previous post with a photo from Christie’s , this rare sculpture depicts Avalokiteshvara with his left hand on his hip – no lotus – and his right hand in the gesture of supreme generosity, like Phagpa Lokeshvara. However, he has a different hairstyle, crown and earrings and wears a sacred cord, a necklace and matching bracelets.

Tibet, Phagpa Lokeshvara (3)

Undated, Tibet or Nepal, probably wood (with cold gold and pigments), at the Potala in Lhasa, photo in article on asianart.com by Ian Alsop.

One of the many reproductions of the original Nepalese image of Avalokiteshvara thought to have been brought to Lhasa during the 7th century and known as Phagpa Lokeshvara. He has a moon-like face, typical of Tibetan sculptures, and a small raised effigy at the front of his crown.

Unlabelled (Tibet or Nepal, wood with pigments), photo on  HAR 

Also with Tibetan facial features, coiffed with a tall crown made of three thin leaves of equal height, unlike most of the others we have seen so far, his folded hair showing on each side; there is an effigy of himself at the front, a feature unique to this form of Avalokiteshvara. He wears the usual large bell-shaped lotus earrings, knotted sash and floral belt. Two noteworthy ornaments are his long beaded necklace and some armlets placed very low down, possibly to hide the joint at elbow level.

13th century, place of origin unknown, Phagpa Lokeshvara, zitan (red sandalwood), private collection, photo on Sotheby’s

Despite the absence of the corresponding body this rather stern and tight-lipped head is interesting because of the effigy at the front of the crown.

The miniature Phagpa Lokeshvara has soft Tibetan facial features, with large eyes and fleshy lips, and as he doesn’t wear a crown we can see the intricacy of his topknot.

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Phagpa Lokeshvara, wood (with traces of gilding), private collection, photo on Koller

We came across one case with the arm out of place and subsequently restored to its original state. Koller tell us that the statue’s right arm has been repaired and this is probably why he is doing the fear-allaying gesture, which does not correspond to this form of Avalokiteshvara.

He has uncharacteristic Chinese-style slanted eyes and eyebrows and wears a plain crown and elaborate lotiform earrings.

17th-18th century, Tibet, gilt wood with polychromy, private collection, photo on Marques Dos Santos 

Standing on a lotus pedestal rather than on a square base, his skin painted with cold gold, his mass of hair bulkier and nearly reaching the tallest part of the crown.

A photo taken at a different angle of what appears to be the same sculpture can be seen on Astamangala . On it, the hair doesn’t seem to go above the tip of the side leaves of the crown and the lotus base hasn’t been stripped. There seems to be painted pattern on his dhoti.


Tibet, a singular Phagpa Lokeshvara (2)

Undated, Tibet, Phagpa Lokeshvara, wood, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This form of Avalokiteshvara is rarely seen, especially since the majority of sculptures are made of wood  – like the emblematic 7th century Nepalese statue at the Potala (heavily restored with a thick coat of gilding that covers the details), and most of them have lost an arm – or both. This one has lost its feet  but the arms and hands are intact.

He holds his left hand against his hip, the other does he gesture of supreme generosity. His knee-length garment is held in place with a belt and complemented by a broad sash worn low down and knotted on one side.

Unlike most versions, he has no mass of hair folded across his head but long strands of curls falling over his shoulders. He displays other unusual features such as the rosettes on his crown, a broad v-shape necklace (a design often seen on 16th- 17th century Nepalese sculptures) and, above all, an effigy of Amitahba in his crown. Many images of Avalokiteshvara have one but in his phagpa lokeshvara form the front part of his crown is either plain or decorated with an effigy of himself.

Phagpa Lokeshvara, variants (4)

18th century, China, Phagpa Lokeshvara, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Although this blog is about Himalayan art, and therefore doesn’t include objects made in China, sculptures of Phagpa Lokeshvara are so rare that it is always interesting to look at them and compare them with the oldest image known so far, held at the Potala. The above has Chinese facial features, rigid but slender legs, graceful arms and a thin waist. There is an effigy of himself on his crown. His striped dhoti, much shorter on one side, is decorated with a stippled floral motif and an incised hem.

His earrings are round rather than square, with the petals and stamens clearly visible.

Undated, China?, ivory, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This curious ivory figure with Chinese facial features is adorned with jewellery and wears striped legging under his two-tier dhoti. Other odd features are the sash, which appears to be knotted around the left leg, and the unfinished feet.


Phagpa Lokeshvara – a question of arms

It is always sad to see a sculpture of Phagpa Lokeshvara badly maimed or with a limb missing but one of them appears to have recovered a missing arm!

14th c. or later, Tibet, Phagpa Lokeshvara, polychrome wood, 30 cm, private collection.

The image on the left was published in 2001 on the immensely useful Himalayan Art Resources website, labelled ‘Rakta Lokeshvara’, stone (now labelled ‘wood’). The image on the right was published on Sotheby’s website in September 2008 and twice again on the HAR website (labelled ‘Phagpa Lokeshvara’), the last time recently and still with both arms. The two items are one and the same, even the scratches on the surface are identical.

Undated, Tibet or Nepal, wood and paint, at Musée Guimet in Paris (France).

The fact that his arms are detachable and prone to fall off doesn’t explain why this particular one holds his left arm away from his hip, with his fingers folded to hold the stem of a lotus. It seems to be the only Himalayan example (so far) with this peculiar feature. The effigy of himself on his crown distinguishes him from the padmapani form of Avalokiteshvara, who normally holds the stem of a lotus.

15th c., Tibet, Phagpa Lokeshvara, wood and paint, from photo Michaela Sanda, musée Guimet.jpg

Since this post was published a colour photo taken by Michaela Sanda has been published on the Internet, of which this is a cropped version. Phagpa Lokeshvara now has his arm in the right place!

Phagpa Lokeshvara, variants (3)

Undated, Tibet or Nepal?, Phagpa Lokeshvara, wood, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Most wooden sculptures of Phagpa Lokeshvara have reached us with one or several limbs broken.  Apart from his hairstyle, crown and earrings, which are enough to identify him, the left hand gripping the thigh is specific to this form of Avalokiteshvara.

Same as before.

Like the oldest example known so far, the above has an effigy of himself on the front panel of his crown, which is only slightly taller than his hair. His sash is broader and knotted to one side, the end folded to form an elegant swallow-tail design.

14th century, Central Tibet, Phagpa Lokeshvara, polychrome wood, at the Rietberg Museum in Amsterdam (The Netherlands).

A magnificent and well-preserved example, with Tibetan-style  facial features, square shoulders, marked pectorals and broad limbs.

His dhoti, much shorter on one side, is painted with a golden star-like floral motif on a black background, the sash is decorated with spirals.

His body, face and earrings are painted with cold gold, the hair is dyed with blue pigment.

The flaming arch behind him follows a classic Nepalese design: lotuses supporting elephants, viyalas, makaras, linked to the garuda at the top with foliated scrolls. The lotus pedestal on which he stands is on a stepped throne supported by kinnaras (normally on the arch), snow lions and a yaksha. The edges are decorated with embossed vajra sceptres and lotuses.

Phagpa Lokeshvara, variants (2)

Undated (14th century circa?), Tibet?, wood, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Quite different from the original in proportions, he holds his right hand at the same awkward angle and also has an effigy of himself on the front panel of his crown. The developed pectorals and the facial features point to a Tibetan artist.

Undated, Tibetan or Nepalese artist, Phagpa Lokeshvara, wood, at Tabo Monastery in Himachal Pradesh, published by Ian Alsop (see link in left-hand column).This one has a lotus flower on the front panel of his crown.

Undated, Tibet or Nepal, polychrome wood, private collection, photo by Spink & Son.

Dressed in a tight-fitting ankle-length dhoti decorated with a small geometrical motif, coupled with a broad sash, he holds an object in his left hand.

Undated, Tibet or Nepal, gilt wood, private collection, same as before.

A slim figure with long legs,  a soft sash worn low down and knotted to one side, decorated with foliated scrolls.

His hair and facial features have been painted with pigments.

Undated, Tibet or Nepal, wood and cold gold, pigments, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Another figure with long legs, and a particularly tall headdress. It is worth noting that on these sculptures the height of the crown is almost double that of the folded hair (unlike the prototype at the Potala).

His face is painted with cold gold, the facial features and the hair with pigments.

We have seen such short dhotis painted with a geometrical motif in black and red/ochre on wooden works made during the Nepalese Malla period. This one also wears his sash very low down, but the end is stiff and rectangular.