It is sometimes impossible to know in which part of the Himalayas a given metal sculpture was made because it includes features from different areas and because a given style from a particular area was sometimes imitated by artists from another area. ‘Western Himalayas’ generally refers to Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and other parts of Northern India close to Tibet, and parts of Pakistán.
9th-10th century, Western Himalayas, Kashmir style, Shakyamuni, bronze, private collection, photo by Christie’s.
This rare piece depicts the historical buddha with his right hand in the gesture of generosity and the other holding a piece of his robe, a devotee (possibly the donor) at his feet. The shape of the face and hair and the addition of a devotee on the base correspond to the Kashmiri tradition but not so the dark alloy with silver inlaid-eyes (normally associated with Pakistan/The Swat Valley) or the broad hips and the folds of the robe.
10th-11th century, Western Himalayas, Kashmiri style, Vajrasattva, brass, at the Newark Museum (USA).
Standing on a Kashmiri-style pedestal complete with flaming mandorla, Vajrasattva holds his thunderbolt sceptre in the right hand and the bell in the other, against his hip. His hair is tied in fan-shaped bunch in the Pakistani manner while his pleated celestial scarf with broad ends recalls works from Himachal Pradesh. We saw a similar dhoti and belt on a 10th-11th century brass sculpture from Kashmir, yet the figure lacks the characteristics associated with that region, such as developed pectorals, muscly legs and harmonious body proportions.
10th-11th century, Western Himalayas, Shakyamuni, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.
This is another rare and interesting image of Shakyamuni, dressed in a transparent robe, his right hand doing the fear-allaying gesture, standing on lotus over a plain plinth.
His hair locks are engraved rather than raised, and the hem of his robe is decorated with an embossed rather than an incised pattern. There are traces of cold gold on the face.
11th century, Northern India or Western Tibet, Shakyamuni, metal (copper or copper alloy), at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).
On the whole this masterpiece displays Kashmiri features such as the shape of the face, the body proportions, the folds of the robe. However, the heavy eyelids, the fancy collar and the chignon are not typical of that region.