A rare sculpture of a standing crowned buddha, almost identical to a 12th century sculpture from Western Tibet, published by Christie’s and seen in a previous post. He stands on a Kashmiri-style stepped pedestal decorated with a singular row of lotus petals and an incised motif at the front. Other features that differ from Kashmiri standards are the large wide-open eyes, the shape of the rosettes on each side of the crown and the hem, with large beading and jewel pendants instead of tassels, on the three-pointed neckline of his garment.
The historical buddha wearing a five-leaf crown tied with long ribbons and decorated with large rosettes, no earrings or necklace, dressed in a sanghati with an incised hem, his right hand calling Earth to witness, the other cupped in the gesture of meditation.
A similar depiction, with a small vajra sceptre before him half embedded in the lotus base.
On quite a few of these broad-shouldered Nepalese-style sculptures produced during the 14th and 15th century approximatley, the buddha has a tear-shaped urna on his forehead and wears a minimal tiara, consisting in a head band, plain or with a chased pattern, side rosettes and a central decoration or several stone cabochons.
The historical buddha, crowned and holding a begging bowl in both hands.
A singular un-gilt figure with broad shoulders and a square face, no visible urna, a low floral tiara with small bows and short upward-flowing ribbons, no rosettes, his conical chignon topped with a lotus bud, his robe made of large patches with plain (rather than beaded) seams, a wheel of dharma embossed on the sole of his feet.
Nepalese-style sculptures of the crowned historical buddha are often lavishly gilt and usually include stone inlay. In most cases there is a vajra sceptre placed horizontally on the lotus base.
In this instance turquoise has been used for the square urna and the crown, which has side bows and a traditional kirtimukha design below the main leaf, no rosettes. The hem of his garment is decorated with a chased lotus pattern.
This buddha’s warm and generous Tibetan facial features are highlighted with pigments, the ribbons of his crown form a ‘raining jewels’ design over his shoulders.
14th-15th century, Tibet, crowned buddha, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Mossgreen
On occasions the buddha’s headdress consists in a small tiara with ribbons and rosettes instead of a five-leaf crown. This is a rare example with a triratna (flaming triple gem) at the front.
14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, silver with copper-inlaid nails and hem, private collection, photo by Nagel https://www.auction.de.
A rare silver statue with copper inlay, the five leaves of the crown are broken but we can still see the small rosettes and pleated ribbons on each side.
Another silver crowned buddha, dressed in a patched robe with beaded seams, the ribbons of his crown decorated with turquoise-inlaid pendants.
Undated, (Tibet?), Shakyamuni, copper alloy with silver-inlay, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources HAR
It is unusual for a patched robe to be so transparent. The urna, crown, rosettes and ribbons of the buddha were once inlaid with stones, his eyes are inlaid with silver, his lips may be inlaid with copper.
1207-1357 (13th or first half of the 14th century), Tibet, Shakyamuni (labelled ‘Akshobhya’), gilt bronze and gems, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, photo from the Huntington Archive.
We saw in a previous post that figures with a crowned buddha appearance are unlikely to depict a wisdom buddha and usually represent Shakyamuni, who may have a vajra sceptre before him on the lotus throne, as above.
13th-14th century, Western Himalayas, Shakyamuni, bronze (copper alloy) with traces of pigments, photo by Koller.This buddha wears a plain headband with side bows and a short necklace. There seems to be a wheel of dharma embossed in the palm of his hand.
14th-17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze with paint, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, photo from the Huntington Archive.
The discreet tiara with a small central motif plus bows and rosettes on the sides was popular in Tibet during the 15th century.
The posts ‘Tibet, Akshobhya – crowned buddha appearance’ have been revised and re-labelled ‘Tibet, crowned buddha’ as the figures more likely depict the historical buddha. The first 4 photos below were originally published in general posts on Akshobhya. The others are new on the blog.
15th-16th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, labelled Akshobhya, gilt copper alloy, photo by Christie’s.
Akshobhya may have a buddha appearance (monastic robe and no accessories) or a bodhisattva appearance (princely clothes and accessories) but he is unlikely to have a crowned buddha appearance (monastic robe and crown). The confusion is partly due to the fact that his hand position is the same as on the most common depiction of the historical buddha. Then there is the matter of dress and accessories.
This figure wears a buddha’s robe that covers one shoulder only, its hem decorated with an incised geometrical pattern typical of Western Tibet, and a lower garment knotted at the waist like all buddha figures. He also wears a crown with a flaming jewel design and matching finial on his chignon, some earrings, two necklaces and plain bracelets. The two necklaces and the bracelets are unusual for crowned buddhas in Tibet but we did see a 12th century West Tibetan sculpture of Shakyamuni wearing them, and in the Swat Valley he may even wear armbands.
The sanghati is a major element to distinguish between buddha and bodhisattva appearance.
The historical buddha is often depicted with a patched robe.
The addition of a crown originates from India. At first sight we see a prince who has become a monk. However, it has often been argued that the crown is there to indicate that the historical buddha has reached another realm.
There is a group of Nepalese-style sculptures (made in Tibet by Newars) that depict the historical buddha with a broad forehead and a squarish lower jaw, adorned with a headband tied with long ribbons and decorated with rosettes placed above his ears.
Usually gilt, they have broad shoulders and big arms. The figure is normally seated and the robe is decorated with an incised hem.
Occasionally, the headband is more like a diadem, with a bigger rosette at the front.
This is a later brass version, with different body shape and proportions.
Easily confused with Askhobhya, who does the same hand gestures and often has a vajra sceptre placed before him, this is more likely Shakyamuni in his ‘crowned buddha’ form, holding a piece of his robe in his left hand and wearing a crown, earrings and a necklace – no bracelets, armlets or anklets. We have seen a similar image from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (UK) with the same type of lotus base but here the two rows of petals are not facing each other. (see below for comparison).
12th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang in Lhasa, published on Himalayan Art Resources.
Crowned buddhas may wear just a crown (i.e. no earrings or necklace).
When seated in his crowned-buddha form, Shakyamuni touches the ground with his right hand, calling the Earth goddess to witness his enlightenment. The other hand is held in the meditation gesture.
Both Shakyamuni and Vairochana may sit on a throne supported by lions (and a Yaksha at the centre, in this case). The position of the hands together with the (discreet) presence of armbands, bracelets, anklets, a silk shawl and lotuses attached to the elbows, point to the latter.
The absence of jewellery tells us that this is the historical buddha.
The meaning of the crown is still subject to debate and the interpretation varies from one geographical region to another. In Tibetan art it is often explained as a sign of the buddha having reached a higher realm.