Tibet, various mahasiddhas (9)

15th-16th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha Catrapa, bronze (copper alloy), at the Power House Museum in Sydney (Australia).

Adorned with large hoops and floral jewellery (an anti-caste symbol), the great tantric practitioner Catrapa is identified by the manuscript in his left hand. His right hand does the teaching gesture.

Undated, Siddha Dombi Heruka, Tibet, metal, at the Capital Museum in Beijing (China).

Mahasiddha Dompi Heruka, formerly King Cakravarman (Kashmir, 10th century AD), rides a pregnant tigress and is normally accompanied by his consort. He wears bone jewellery and has a skull in his headdress.

His attributes are a snake held like a lasso and a skull cup.

The above also wears snakes around his ankles and a dhoti incised with a floral motif. An inscription on the base bears his name.

Undated, Tibet, Mahasiddha Luipa, wood, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (USA).

Luipa, Master of Secrets, is identified by the fish gut he is eating. He sits on a deer skin over a thick cushion, a female attendant to his left, a large fish to his right.

Undated (15th-16th century), Central Tibet, Tsang, Mahasiddha Naropa, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Naropa often holds a human hide stretched across hiss back.

Undated (circa 15th century), Central Tibet, Tsang district, Mahasiddha Virupa, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Virupa may be depicted with various hand positions. This standard image shows him leaning on one hand while pointing to the Sun with the other, his head facing the viewer.

18th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha Virupa, gilt copper alloy, at the Honolulu Museum of Art (Haiwai).

He usually sits at ease on a animal skin. On this example, the head of the animal is placed to his right, as is often the case with later sculptures.

Undated, Mahasiddha Virupa, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Moke Mokotoff, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

A rare work, with his face sideways. He sits on an antelope skin and wears a meditation strap, floral jewellery and a garland of flowers. There is a skull cup in his left hand.

Undated (circa 16th century), Central Tibet, Tsang, Mahasiddha Virupa, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

On occasions his hands do the ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘ gesture. The above lotus base has an unusual top row of incised petals with three lobes, plus a standard row of plump elongated petals, thick beading and a plinth with a Tibetan inscription on it.

Late 16th or early 17th century, Central Tibet, Tsang, Mahasiddha, silver with turquoise inlay, at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City (USA).

This unidentified Indian adept is adorned with a five-skull crown, bone jewellery, a bone cross-belt with pendants, a celestial scarf forming a frame around his head and shoulders. The right hand does a pointing gesture, the gesture of the left hand is used to bestow patience (tip of the middle finger against the tip of the thumb).

 

 

 

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Tibet, Mahasiddha Ghantapa

15th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha Ghantapada, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Ghantapa (or Ghantapada), ‘The Celibate Bell Ringer’, brandishes a vajra sceptre in his right hand and holds a bell (ghanta) in the other. He wears a conical headdress with a half-vajra finial, princely jewellery, a body belt with a rice-grain pattern that matches the hem of his calf-length garment.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Koller.

This figure, seated on an antelope skin and holding the same attributes could be Ghantapa.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha Ghantapa, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Cornette de Saint-Cyr.

Quite a different portrait of the same man, his tongue pulled irreverently, the eyes bulging out, coiffed with a floral crown with long ribbons and adorned with serpentine bracelets and sacred thread, a beaded necklace and anklets.

Tibet, various mahasiddhas (8)

12th century, Tibet or Nepal, Mahasiddha, possibly Krishnacharya (Kanha), gilt copper and pigments, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

The Indian adept holds a skull cup in his right hand and seems to have had another object in his left hand, probably a drum or a vajra sceptre judging by the way he holds it. This iconography corresponds to various famous mahasiddhas, and some mahasiddhas can be depicted in several ways so it is difficult to identify them without an inscription on the base.

Late 15th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha, bronze, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

And even with an inscription on the back of the pedestal, it is not always clear who we are looking at. This particular one reads ‘homage to pha.rkon.tshan.ras.chen’. We saw a similar image of a certain Tenzin Lundrup with the same headdress. The above is seated on a tiger skin, and, like Virupa, he holds a skull cup in his left hand and does a pointing gesture with the other.

15th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha, bronze (copper alloy) and pigments private collection.

This character is saluting with his right hand and holds a skull cup with a large spherical object (jewel?) in it.

17th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha, gilt bronze (copper alloy) and red pigment, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This wrathful character wears a leopard skin loincloth and a human hide on his back. He holds a stick topped with a skull and may have had a skull cup in his left hand. The position of his legs suggests he was riding a mount, now missing. Some figures labelled ‘mahasiddha‘ are depicted with a semi-wrathful face and blue hair. This one has red flaming hair and looks rather like a wrathful deity.

18th century, Tibet, gilt bronze (copper alloy), same as before.

An unusual sculpture of a bearded man wearing a conical headdress, his right hand doing the teaching gesture, the other holding a manuscript, seated on an oval lotus base with incised petals, over a stepped rectangular plinth.

 

Tibet, various mahasiddhas (7)

Mahasiddha Kukkuripa, Tibet, undated, metal, at the Capital Museum in Beijing (China).

Kukkuripa is seated in the vajra position, stroking his little dog, who is standing on his lap, and holding a vajra-tipped stick in his left hand. He is adorned with a five-skull crown with long flowing ribbons, princely jewellery once inlaid with stones, including large floral disc earrings, a beaded cross belt and a belt with ‘raining jewel’ pendants.

 

15th-16th century, Tibet, bronze, Mahasiddha Catrapa, at the Power House Museum in Sydney (Australia).

Catrapa normally carries a manuscript (lost here) in one hand.

18th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha, gilt bronze (copper alloy) and blue pigment, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This tantric practitioner holds a drum made of two skullcaps (damaru) in his right hand and a skull cup in the other.

 

 

Tibet, Mahasiddha Kanha (2)

16th century, Central Tibet, Mahasiddha Kanha, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

The Indian adept, also known as Krishnacharya, holds a skull cup in his right hand and does a pointing gesture with the other.

18th century, Tibet or Himalayan region, gilt copper alloy with stone inlay and pigments, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

He normally holds the skull cup in his left hand and may do the teaching gesture with the other, as above. He is seated on a double lotus base with a petal design often seen on Bhutanese works (but not exclusively), his left foot resting on a lotus fastened to the rim. He is adorned with a five-skull tiara, large hoops and turquoise-inlaid accessories.

His facial features are painted with pigments and the hair dyed blue.

Same, gilt brass (copper alloy) and cold gold, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Like other Indian masters or siddhas  who have founded or taken part to the foundation of a Buddhist school in Tibet, he may be depicted wearing the full Tibetan monastic attire. We see him here holding a manuscript in his left hand and wearing felt boots.

 

Tibet, Mahasiddha Naropa (2)

Mahasiddha Naropa (probably), undated (15 or 16th century), Central Tibet, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

There are several iconographies for this Indian adept, one of them depicts him with a mahasiddha appearance, holding a human hide stretched across his back, as above.

17th century, Mahasiddha Naropa, rhinoceros horn, at the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, photo by Nik Douglas.

Alternatively, he may be seated in a relaxed posture on a lion skin, holding a skull cup filled with nectar. The other hand  may display various gestures (in this case, bestowing refuge, ). This sculpture and the one below are part of two different sets of mahasiddhas.

18th century, same, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

On this example, he extends his right hand palm out in the gesture of supreme generosity.

 

Tibet, Mahasiddha Virupa – variants

15th century circa, Tibet, Mahasiddha Virupa, copper alloy with silver and turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

By far the most commonly depicted mahasiddha, Virupa is seen here with his hands in the ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘ gesture, seated on an antelope skin over an unusual lotus base with tiny petals incised on the upper tier, a long-life vase placed to his left, a small medicine jar with a lid on the other side.

The artist has used silver inlay for his eyes, teeth, and part of his dhoti, which is incised with a floral motif.

Undated (15th or 16th century), Tibet, Mahasiddha Virupa, brass, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

An almost life-like portrait with a similar iconography, the eyes and teeth inlaid with silver, the hair adorned with a floral tiara, the body adorned with jewellery, a cross belt and a long garland of flowers. The artist has taken great care with every detail, including his fingers and toes, and the hair on the skin of the antelope.

Undated (15th or 16th century), origin not specified (probably Tibet), Mahasiddha Virupa, brass with silver and copper inlay, at a mountain sanctuary, private collection, published on Himalayan Buddhist Art.

This singular image of Virupa shows him with both hands in prayer, his legs held together with a meditation strap, adorned with flowers.

15th century, same, brass with silver inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Most Tibetan sculptures of Virupa depict him with one hand raised, to stop the course of the Sun. The other hand may hold a skull cup or rest on the lotus base, as above. The yogic strap holds his raised knee.

Undated (15th or 16th century , Tibet, Mahasiddha Virupa, copper alloy with cold gold, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

He doesn’t always have a meditation band but is usually adorned with large flowers (tiara, earrings, garland etc.).

16th century, Central Tibet, Tsang atelier, Mahasiddha Virupa, copper alloy with silver inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

The Chinese-style cross belt with one or more pendants is typical of the 16th century onwards. It usually goes with beaded bone jewellery. His eyes and teeth are inlaid with silver. A large floral tiara with floral bows and ribbons adorns his hair.

Undated (15th or 16th century), Central Tibet, Tsang atelier, Mahasiddha Virupa, copper alloy with silver inlay, private collection, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Alternatively, instead of leaning against one hand he holds a skull cup in it, and raises the other. The above sits on the skin of an antelope with twisted horns. His eyes are inlaid with silver, his hair fastened in a thick top knot and embellished with a floral tiara.