Tibet, Krishna Yamari

11th-12th century, Tibet, Krishna Yamari, bronze (copper alloy) with paint and turquoise, at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

Krishna Yamari, with a blue-black body on paintings, may have 1 head and 2 or 4 hands, 3 heads and 2, 4, or 6 hands, 4 heads and 4 hands, 6 or 9 heads and 6 hands. According to textual sources, the four-head version has 4 legs. We saw a figure with 4 heads thought to be Krishna Yamari who only had two legs and the fourth head was Manjushri’s. Here, the heads all have the orange hair and third eye associated with wrathful deities. He holds a sword in the upper left hand and a skull cup in the lower right one, the other attributes are probably incomplete.

14th century, Sino-Tibetan, Krishna Yamari, gilt copper alloy with stones and pigment, private collection, photo by Pundoles.

One of the three-head and six-hand form of Black Yamari tramples two demons lying on the back of a prostrated male buffalo and holds a skull cup, a wheel and a lotus flower or bud in his right hand, a flaying knife, a sword and a vajra in the others (sometimes in a different order). This form may be alone (India) or accompanied by his consort (Sakya tradition).

17th-18th century, Tibet, Krishna Yamari, bronze with gilding and paint, at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This rare form of Yamari has six heads, six arms and six legs, two of them folded in the vajra position, the other four in the alidha pose typical of wrathful deities. The main hands are crossed over the heart and hold a vajra sceptre and a bell. The other implements appear to be a vajra-hammer, a sword, another vajra or vajra-tipped attribute and possibly a lasso.





Tibet, wrathful Vajrapani – various forms

Undated (11th-12th century?), Western Tibet?, Vajrapani, three-deities form, copper alloy and pigments, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Rarely seen in sculpture, this form of Vajrapani with one head, two hands and two legs normally has a horse’s head in his headdress to represent Hayagriva and a full-bodied garuda. He wields a five-prong vajra sceptre with the right hand and does a wrathful gesture with the other. His flaming hair is tied in a bunch with a snake and more snakes adorn his body. Here he is clad in a tight-fitting tiger skin engraved in the manner of the Ngari district sculptures, and appears to stand on nagas.

17th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, copper alloy with pigments and cold gold, made by Chöying Dorje, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang in Lhasa (Tibet), published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

A creative work by the 10th karmapa, showing Vajrapani with a human face, squatting over a couple of victims who have been interpreted by Bonhams as garudas, on a rocky pedestal with two kneeling figures at the front.

He holds a vajra sceptre in his right hand and a mongoose in the other (normally associated with Jambhala).

16th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

One would expect to see a bell in his left hand, but on this other work ,where he is an attendant to Ushnishavijaya, he also holds a vajra sceptre and a mongoose.

16th century, Tibet, Vajrapani (labelled Hayagriva) gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Ader Nordmann.

In his mahacakra form he has three heads (sometimes four) and six hands (sometimes eight), the lower ones clutching a very long snake held between his teeth. He may be alone or with his consort and usually stands with both legs crushing two victims.

16th century, Tibet, Vajrapani (labelled Mahakala), bronze, at the San Diego Museum of Art.

Vajrapani in the Nilambara form, with one head with three eyes, two hands, in which he holds vajra sceptre and bell, two legs normally treading on a single victim lying on snakes.  He is adorned with snake anklets and bracelets, bone jewellery, a garuda in his headdress and another two on his chest. As, according to textual sources,  this form has no skull crown or garland of several heads the artist has adorned him a flowing celestial scarf and a crown made of floral panels.

17th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, silver, location unknown, photo from the Huntington Archive.

In his chanda form, the left hand holds a lasso and does a wrathful gesture, usually with two fingers raised (karana mudra) to ward off evil, in this case with just the forefinger raised as a threatening gesture (tarjani mudra). Traditionally, he stands on a victim lying on a bed of serpents. Apart from the usual wrathful ornaments, this late example includes a cross-belt with skulls and a lion skin stretched across his back.

Tibet, Shakyamuni seated -dhyana mudra (2)

Circa 11th century, Western Tibet, Guge, Shakyamuni, clay and paint, private collection, photo by Astamangala.

This rare piece depicts the historical buddha with both hands in the meditation gesture (dhyana mudra), his long pleated robe covering both shoulders, the hem decorated with blue embroidery.

11th-12th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

On this Indian-style work the diaphanous garments are barely noticeable.

Circa 13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass with silver and copper inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Tibetan brass sculpture at its height often incorporated silver inlay, in this case for the eyes and the beading on the hem…

… and copper inlay, for the lips and the incised border.

The metal inlay continues at the back of the robe, whereas the majority of Tibetan metal sculptures have no lotus petals at the back of the base.

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

The dharma wheels incised on the sole of his feet distinguish him from Amitabha, who has a buddha appearance and holds a bowl in his cupped hands.




Tibet, Manjushri – various forms (2)

11th century, Tibet, Manjushri, bronze with paint, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This work, displaying a mixture of Kashmiri, Himachal Pradesh, Indian and West Tibetan features, depicts Manjushri  seated in the vajra position, brandishing a flaming sword and holding the Prajnaparamita sutra against his heart – a form generally  called arapachana although when the book is in his hand (rather than on a blue lotus to his left) it is sometimes referred to as sthiracakra.

12th-13th century, Tibet, Manjughosa (a form of Manjushri), gilt bronze (copper alloy) with paint and stones, t the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

In his peaceful form Manjushri doesn’t have a sword. The above holds the stem of a lotus that supports a book topped with three pearls (to his left).

15th-16th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt bronze (copper alloy), at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences at Power House Museum in Sydney (Australia).

From the 13th century onwards he may hold the stem of a lotus supporting the hilt of a sword to his right and the other lotus supports the book. Apart from the style of the lotus base and the belt with raining jewels, the fact that his hands are held in the dharmacakra mudra suggests that this sculpture was made by a Nepalese artist.

16th century, Tibet, Manjushri, copper alloy, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (USA).

A rare image of Manjushri as a child, his hair divided in five top knots, holding a lotus topped with a book in his right hand and a roundish object in the other (possibly a conch shell).



Tibet, Amitayus – bodhisattva appearance (11)




11th century, Tibet, Amitayus, gilt bronze, at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This Nepalese-style work depicts Amitayus, who normally has a bodhisattva appearance and holds a long-life vase. He is an aspect of Amitabha, whose mount is the peacock, hence the two peacocks supporting the throne, which is covered with a cloth decorated with a wheel of dharma at the front.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Amitabha (Amitayus), bronze, at the Kyangphu monastery, Shigatse, Tibet photo from the Huntington Archive.

Here, the throne is supported by a seated figure between two peacocks.

Unlike the yakshas that often support thrones, this figure is tall and thin, and his body is decorated with floral roundels on the knees, forearms, elbows and chest.

16th century, Tibet, Amitayus, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Amitayus is always seated in the vajra position, with both hands in the meditation gesture.

17th century, Tibet, Amitayus, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with stone inlay, at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This buddha’s crown, jewellery and long-life vase are inlaid with large cabochons typical of works inspired by late Malla art from Nepal.

18th century, Tibet, Amitayus, copper alloy with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The late Pala-revival style often includes a thin fluttering scarf.


Tibet, crowned Shakyamuni – seated (5)

11th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni (labelled Akshobhya), copper alloy, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

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, armbands 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).

10th-11th century, Tibet, buddha Shakyamuni, bronze with traces of gilding, 8 cm, at the Ashmolean Museum (UK).

The Ashmolean buddha has no vajra sceptre before him.

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).

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper alloy with pigment, private collection, photo by Pundoles.

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.

15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni or Vairocana, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

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, and  lotuses attached to the elbows, point to the latter.

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper with turquoise inlay, at the Musée Guimet in Paris (France).

The absence of jewellery tells us that this is the historical buddha.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, fire-gilt embossed copper, stone inlay, private collection.

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.






Tibet, Amoghasiddhi – bodhisattva appearance (6)

10th-11th century, Western Tibet, Amoghasiddhi or Vajravidarana, silver with bronze inlay, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (USA).

This Kashmiri-style masterpiece was originally thought to be a portrait of Vajravidarana, who holds a visvajra in the right hand and a bell in the other at hip level. However, the throne supported by a garuda is associated with Amoghasiddhi, who is more likely to have been the object of such an early sculpture. But Amoghasiddhi holds his visvajra in the left hand and doesn’t hold a bell in the other… There are other cases of two deities being depicted in one sculpture, intentionally.

Labelled 10th century (more likely 13th-14th century), Tibet, Amoghasiddhi, clay on wood covered with plaster and paint, at a Tibetan monastery, photo by Fosco Marani.

In Tibet, Amoghasiddhi normally holds his right hand at heart level in the fear-allaying gesture and the other in the meditation gesture.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Amoghasiddhi, copper alloy, at the Palace Museum in Beijing (China).

Undated, Tibet, Amoghasiddhi, gilt metal and stone inlay, at the Dallas Museum of Art (USA).