Tibet, Shakyamuni seated – bhumisparsha mudra (6)

11th-12th century, probably Western Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass with silver eyes, and copper lips, nails and hem, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

12th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier as before, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

Most Tibetan sculptures show the historical buddha calling Earth to witness his triumph over Mara (who represents evil), thus reaching enlightenment. On these two early examples, the buddha has no lotus bud finial on his hair bun.

12th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier as before, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

12th-13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier as before, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

This one has a vajra sceptre placed before him at the front of the lotus base.

12th-13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze with traces of gilding, private collection, photo by Tessier-Sarrou, Art d’Asie 16th December 2019, lot 26.

13th century, Central Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt metal, photo by Ahn-Minh Tran, at the Museo de Arte Orientale in Turin (Italy).

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier as before, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères.

14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass with silver-inlaid eyes and silver beading, copper inlaid lips, nails and hem, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier as before, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper with cold gold and pigment, Birman style, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier as before, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

16th-17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze, Nº 1998-00213 at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 1492 lot 210.

18th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, zitan wood (red sandalwood), with cold gold, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 5614 lot 322, Paris.

Tibet, Shakyamuni on a lion throne (5)

11th or 12th century, Western Tibet, Guge kingdom, Shakyamuni, brass, is or was at the Piyang monastery in Ladakh, photo by Michael Henss, 1983.

The historical buddha does the fear-allaying gesture with his right hand, thus displaying a dharma wheel on his palm. His throne is decorated with a visvajra and recumbent snow lions with their head turned towards the viewer.

14th century, Tibet, buddha Shakyamuni, brass with silver-inlaid eyes and urna, traces of cold gold and blue pigment, photo here , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

A taller and more elaborate throne, with a triple gem (triratna) made to look like three lotus buds and two standing lions at the front, an elephant on each side, round gems and incised diamonds containing a lotus flower at the top.

14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze with stones, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 17598 lot 344.

These two half-crouching snow lions are on each side of a triple gem with foliage. Above it, a stone-inlaid visvajra.

Tibet, Shakyamuni -seated (23)

13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, wood, private collection, photo on Astamangala

14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Koller, sale A175AS lot 104.

The historical buddha seated on a lotus base, a vajra sceptre placed before him, holding a bowl and calling Earth to witness his enlightenment. His robe, decorated with a beaded and incised border, is worn rather low down and  the fabric is loosely  gathered in the crook of his elbow.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze with turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Nagel, sale 103 China 1.

A variant, with the right shoulder covered but the chest and arm bare.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s, Paris, Arts d’Asie 6th December 2007.

17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze (copper alloy), at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne (Australia).

Tibet, Shakyamuni – unusual works (9)

11th century, Western Tibet, Guge kingdom, Shakyamuni, brass, private collection, after G. Tucci in Tibet, Land of Snows, London 1967, ill. p 177.

An early and powerful image of the historical buddha with Pala-style facial features, his urna slightly off centre above the unibrow, a large lotus bud finial on his chingon, his tight-fitting robe decorated with a zig-zag incision along the hem, the punched navel and the straight waist of his lower garment showing through the thin fabric, two layers of cloth gathered in thick folds below his ankles.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze with silver inlay, private collection, photo by Nagel, sale 736 China 4.

A dark bronze figure with silver-inlaid eyes and a very thick unibrow, no urna, no nipples (as is often the case on early Tibetan works), seated on an unusual lotus base with a row of beading between the two lotuses and more beading at the top and at the bottom. The small piece of cloth over his left shoulder forms a geometrical shape with a pointed end. We will note the small feet and the thick hands with three fingers almost the same length.

17th-18th century (or earlier?), Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze (brass with silver-inlaid or painted eyes?), private collection, photo isabelle Bresset on artcurial

Seated on a double-lotus base with small plump petals associated with the (circa) 12th century, his pile of thick hair curls topped with a double lotus bud finial, no nipples visible, this buddha with delicate hands wears an inner and an outer robe with a thick hem, and a lower garment with an embroidered border. A raised urna is placed at the centre of his thin unibrow.

17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, ivory with traces of gilding, private collection, photo on Beaussant-Lefèvre

A rare ivory sculpture of the historical buddha seated on a squarish lotus base, his right foot in an unnatural position, a long piece of fabric going over his left shoulder and down his chest.

17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper alloy, separate base, private collection, photo by Koller.

Instead of a plain or patched robe, this buddha with large limbs wears a garment made of long strips of fabric sewn together.

18th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, steatite with red and black lacquer, private collection, photo on Drouot .

A rare stone sculpture of a buddha with a cloak knotted at the front and covering both shoulders.

Tibet, Shakyamuni – variants (3)

15th century (or earlier?), Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze with silver and copper inlay, private collection, photo on Hardt

The historical buddha dressed in a transparent robe that reveals the waist of his undergarment, his lips and the border of his robe inlaid with copper, his eyes and urna inlaid with silver, seated on a tall lotus base with plump petals, all of which we have often seen on early (13th-14th century) works from Tibet. We have only seen a few early buddhas seated on a beaded cushion as above, most of them dated 13th century.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze with silver inlay, private collection, photo on Nagel .

One of a group of buddhas seated on a double-lotus base with elongated petals with a sharply pointed end, displaying the same type of facial features and hairstyle, the undergarment tightly pleated under the breast, the sanghati decorated with an incised border, a small vajra sceptre placed on top of the seat.

15th century, Western Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze, at the Cleveland Museum of Art (USA).

This rare image depicts the historical buddha with a jewelled finial (and no hair bun or chignon), wearing a diaphanous robe with part of the cloth falling vertically on the left side.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gitl bronze with cold gold and pigment, private collection, photo by Nagel.

A plain robe with an incised hem and a section of the cloth arranged in two scallop-shaped layers over his left shoulder.

15th century, Western Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze (brass), with copper inlay, private collection, photo by Andrew Lau for Hollywood Galleries

A copper-inlaid hem and a classic ‘swallow tail’ draping over the left shoulder.

16th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by 25 Blythe Road.

A sanghati with a multitude of soft pleats across the chest and left arm.

16th c. cir., Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze, 20,5 cm, MC Daffos, aaoarts.com

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Marie-Catherine Daffos for aaoarts  

The classic patched robe with beaded seams.

17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Polyauction.

With a very loosely draped robe, disproportionate arms and torso, an elongated neck and face, all of which help date the piece.

18th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper repoussé, private collection, photo by Nagel, sale 104 China 2.

Dressed in silk clothing draped in the Chinese fashion.

Tibet, Shakyamuni – seated (22)

12th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy with silver and copper inlay, private collection?, photo on Artkhade

This Indo-Tibetan masterpiece depicts the historical buddha with a very large lotus bud finial on his chignon, his right hand calling Earth to witness his enlightenment. There is no cloth folded over his left shoulder but we can see that a piece of the garment rests across his left arm, a common feature in Tibet.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni (labelled ‘Akshobhya’), copper alloy, with copper inlay and pigments, photo by VAN HAM.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy with copper-inlaid seam, private collection, photo by Koller, sale A187AS.

Two buddhas with a large raised urna above their unibrow and a sanghati with a copper-inlaid hem decorated with an incised geometrical pattern, a recurrent feature in 13th and 14th century Tibet, usually featuring a rice grain or a lotus motif.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze, private collection, photo by Nagel, sale 105 China 1.

A simpler way of decorating the hem, without the copper inlay. Note the ‘swallow tail’ over the left shoulder, the delicate hands and the oblong urna at the centre of the unibrow. We can see a raised wheel of dharma on the sole of his right foot.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze with copper inlay, private collection, photo by Nagel, sale 104 China 2.

Two noteworthy features here are the way the cloth drops almost vertically across the left arm and the short and broad ‘swallow tail’ arranged over the shoulder and down the arm.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Drouot.

A sanghati with a wavy pattern on the hem.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze with copper and turquoise inlay, at the MAAS in Sydney (Australia).

Shakyamuni wearing a patched robe with beaded seams, a floral pattern engraved on each patch, the border decorated with a geometrical motif, seated on a rare lotus base with an incised two-tier plinth.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by F. Gousset for aaoarts.

With two layers of clothing clearly visible and thick pleating over his left shoulder.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze with traces of gilding, private collection, photo by Koller.

17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Mossgreen.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper alloy with cold gold and pigment, private collection, photo by Koller, sale A189AS.

Tibet, shakyamuni – metal variants (4)

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy with silver inlay, private collection, photo by Amita Gallery.

The use of silver inlay for the eyes came to Tibet via Kashmiri and Indian artists, who didn’t normally apply gilding to their works.

Circa 14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

In parts of Tibet (such as the Ngari area in Western Tibet), plain copper alloy was often decorated with a stippled and/or incised motif, such as the lotus flowers on this buddha’s sanghati and the geometrical pattern on the hem.

14th century, Tibet, metal (brass with copper inlay and pigments), private collection, photo on HAR

On many 13th and 14th century Tibetan brass sculptures the garments (of buddhas, bodhisattvas and lamas) have a copper-inlaid and incised border. This buddha’s robe has a floral motif. A different decoration has been used for the folds over his shoulders (see close up here). There are traces of cold gold on his face and neck. His nails are also inlaid with copper.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt metal with painted face and hair, Sonam Gyaltsen and atelier, private collection, photo on HAR

Richly gilt and stone-inlaid works such as those found at the Densatil monastery and others attributed to Sonam Gyaltsen (whose atelier was in the Tsang province) and his followers is due to the influence of Newari artists from the Kathmandu Valley. But before that, the Newars already used (cold) gold to adorn wooden statues. One example is the famous sandalwood statue of Avalokiteshvara known as ‘Phagpa Lokeshvara’ at the Potala’ (see article by Ian Alsop) which may date from the 7th century.