Tibet, Vasudhara (2)

17th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Buddha Collectors.

This female deity, more popular in Nepal than in Tibet, has a one-head and two-hand form, in which case she normally displays the gesture of generosity and holds a tuft or rice and a vase full of jewels (in her right hand on this Pala revival example).

18th century, Tibet, Vasudhara, gilt bronze (copper alloy) and stone inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

She may also have one or two heads and six hands. The upper right hand makes a gesture related to music, the lower right hand is open palm (gesture of generosity) and may hold a fruit, the middle right hand holds raining jewels, the left hands hold a long-life vase, a sheaf of rice and the Prajnaparamita sutra (the manuscript in her top hand).

Undated, Tibet, Vasudhara, gilt copper alloy, cold gold and pigment, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, Tibet, Vasudhara, gilt copper alloy, cold gold and pigment, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, published on Himalayan Art Resources.


Tibet, Ushnishavijaya (6)

17th century, Tibet, Ushnishavijaya, gilt bornze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Michaan’s.

Ushnishavijaya in her three-head and eight-hand form. Each head has three eyes, all the hair is gathered into a knot topped with a jewel. Her attributes are missing. The standard ones in Tibet are a visvajra (held between her main hands at heart level), a long life vase (in her lower left hand), a bow (middle left hand), an effigy of Amitabha (top right hand), and an arrow or a vajra sceptre (middle right hand). The lower right hand is held in the gesture of supreme generosity. The upper left hand does the fear-allaying gesture and may hold a lasso.

18th century, Eastern Tibet, Ushnishavijaya, parcel gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Koller.

We have seen before that (relatively) recent works often depart from traditional iconography: in her three-head form, this deity always has eight hands, yet the above has three heads but only six hands. She may have held a visvajra in her top right hand, while the effigy of Amitabha would have been on a lotus in one of the lower hands.

A view of the back shows that there is no broken limb.

18th century, Tibet, Ushnishavijaya, parcel gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

On this Chinese-style image with eight hands she still has the visvajra and the long-life vase.


Tibet, Prajnaparamita (2)

12th century, Western Tibet, Prajnaparamita, brass, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Both a bodhisattva and the mother of all buddhas, Prajnaparamita has one head and two or four hands. Her main attribute is a manuscript. She may be seated or standing. This sculpture belongs to a group of West Tibetan brass works derived from the Indian Pala style but with features specific to Western Tibet, especially the Ngari district.

In her four-hand version she may hold the manuscript in her top left hand and a vajra sceptre in one of her right hands while the remaining ones display the gesture of debate/teaching and the gesture of meditation.

Her accessories are decorated with incisions and her lower garment with a stippled lotus pattern.

14th-15th century, Tibet, gilt copper, Tara or Prajnaparamita, private collection, photo by Koller.

Another of her attributes is the blue lotus (top left hand) but she normally holds two, both topped with a manuscript. She may also hold a vajra sceptre (lower left hand) and display the teaching gesture (lower left hand), in which case one hand would display the meditation gesture, hence the uncertainty about the identity of this figure.

15th century, Tibet, Prajnaparamita, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, on loan at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (USA).

When two of the hands ‘turn the wheel of dharma‘ the other two usually hold the stem of blue lotuses each topped with a manuscript. When the lower hands are cupped in the meditation gesture to hold a vase, the upper ones hold a vajra sceptre and the manuscript. Here we have a mixture of hand positions and the long-life vase is at the centre of the lion throne that supports the double-lotus base. There is a vajra finial on her head.

Tibet, various female deities (3)

Undated (18th century?), Tibet, Sarasvati, bronze, Pala Revival style, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

Tibetan sculptures of Sarasvati, of Hindu origin, are very few. She has one  to three heads, two to six arms,  two legs, and normally sits as in the above manner to play a string instrument (vina) often missing. She may hold a book and a grain of rice instead. This one has a long dhoti decorated with large dots of copper and/or silver inlay in the Indian Pala manner.

18th century, Tibet (or China? Labelled China on Himalayan Art Resources), Sarasvati, bronze, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

A similar style work, with Chinese facial features, a plain dhoti and a different metal alloy.

Undated, Tibet, Pancha Raksha deity, gilt copper or copper alloy, at a mountain sanctuary, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Out of the five pancha raksha deities (the embodiment of five early Buddhist texts) only Maha Sahasrapramardana has one head and six hands and is always seated and adorned with peaceful ornaments. She normally holds a sword, an axe, a bow, an arrow, a lasso, her lower left hand does the gesture of supreme generosity (as above)

This deity holds a bow and an arrow, a lasso, and does the gesture of generosity with her lower left hand. The other two attributes seem to be another lasso (or noose) and a stem.

15th century, Tibet, Densatil, goddess, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

We have seen a very similar dancing figure with one head and four arms holding several objects among which a skull cup and a drum, an attribute missing from the lower left hand. The above sustains a trumpet made from a conch shell in her upper right hand. She has a conical chignon topped with a jewel.

Undated (circa 18th century), Tibet, Sitatapatra, bronze with cold gold and pigments, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (USA).

Sitatapatra, ‘the white parasol’, is depicted in her one-head and two-hand form, seated in the vajra position and holding a parasol with her left hand; the dharma wheel normally in her right hand is missing.


Tibet, Sitatapatra (2)

12th century, Tibet, Sitatapatra, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Tibetan sculptures of the  ‘White Parasol’ are few and usually late ones, those that depict her seated are extremely rare. The above is a three-head and eight-hand version. Her main hands are doing the ‘turning the wheel of dharma’ gesture, the other left hands hold a closed victory banner, a bow, and what looks like a water pot. The lower right hand holds a wheel (cakra), the others probably held a vajra sceptre and an arrow.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Sitatapatra, bronze, Van Ham auctions on http://www.lotissimo.com

This Pala revival image depicts Sitatapatra with one head and two hands, the left one folded to support a missing parasol. She may have had a wheel in the other.

Undated (18th century circa?), Tibet, Sitatapatra, metal (copper alloy with cold gold and pigments), at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford (UK).

The spectacular 1000 heads, 1000 arms and 1ooo legs version includes a parasol (broken here) in one of her main hands.

18th century, Tibet, Sitatapatra, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with cold gold (and pigments), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This one has lost all her side hands but still has a mirror in her main right hand (the other held the missing parasol).


Tibet, various female deities

16th century, Tibet, unidentified, gilt copper alloy with stone inlay, private collection, published on http://www.castor-hara.com.

This female character in a dancing pose, possibly a retinue figure, has one head and four arms. In her upper hands she holds a skull cup and what looks like a lamp, in the lower hands she has a drum and also held an attribute (now missing) upright.

14th century circa, Tibet, 4-armed goddess, gilt copper alloy with gems, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

A one-head and four-arm deity, seated at royal ease, her lower hands doing the gestures of supreme generosity and teaching, the other hands holding a blue lotus and another attribute, possibly the stalk of another lotus. Her lower garment is decorated with stone-inlaid visvajras in the Densatil style. A flat celestial scarf acts as a nimbus.

Unidentified goddess (Sitatapatra?), Central Tibet, gilt copper alloy and stone inlay, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

In a very similar style, this deity has three heads and six hands, in which she holds a bow, an arrow, a parasol, a vajra sceptre, and another two objects now missing.

Tibet, Nairatmya (3)

Undated (14th century?), Tibet, Nairatmya, copper alloy with turquoise inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This female buddha and meditational deity may be depicted with a dakini appearance, standing on her left foot over a victim, wielding a flaying knife above her head and holding a skull cup at heart level, a ritual staff in the crook of her left arm, as above. This particular sculpture is identical in style to a 14th century sculpture of Hevajra published in a previous post, including the design of the double lotus base, derived from the Indian Pala style, and the way the flaming hair forms a mitre-like shape (it could well be that the two sculptures came out of the same workshop, especially as Nairatmya is Hevajra’s consort). She has no half-vajra finial on her head but holds a vajra sceptre in her right hand instead. Her two necklaces, bone apron, teeth and skull crown are made of silver.

The star-like incisions on her lower garment tell us that it is made of leopard skin ( a flame-like design would indicate a tiger skin loin cloth). Her garland has a row of freshly severed heads at the centre and only a few other heads along the string.

16th-17th century, Tbet, Nairatmya, gilt copper alloy with gems, private collection, photo by Nagel

This later version marries the Nepalese Malla style famous for its rich gilding and abundant stone inlay with the Chinese taste for festooned accessories and serpentine scarves and ribbons. Her ritual staff includes a horizontal vajra sceptre, two human heads and one skull, topped with an upright vajra sceptre. The harmonious body proportions are enhanced by the way her knees are held in a diagonal axis.

Undated, Tibet, Nairatmya, metal, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Nairatmya may also be depicted seated at ease over a victim. Exceptions apart, she has three eyes, wears a five-skull crown with foliate panels on each skull, and holds her flaying knife and skull cup at heart level.

Undated, Tibet, Nairatmya, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

A variant, with the skull cup held lower down.

Undated, Tibet ,Nairatmya, gilt metal with cold gold and pigments, same as before.

This one wears a tiger or leopard skin loin cloth held in place with a belt. She sits on a single lotus with large round petals and has a stone (and coral?) inlaid skull-crown with a much larger panel at the centre.