Tibet, Vajrakila (2)

12th century, Tibet, Vajrakila (labelled Samvara with consort), brass with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Originally published as Chakrasamvara, this deity with four heads, each with three eyes, six arms and 4 legs is in fact Vajrakila (and labelled as such on the Himalayan Art Resources website).

He is adorned with snakes, a foliate tiara on each head, large hoops on the main one, his flaming hair is gathered in a bunch and decorated with small buddhas. His main hands are cupped to hold what was should be a kila, his other right hands hold a nine-prong vajra and a five-prong vajra…

… the left ones hold a trident and some flames, all of which correspond to Vajrakila.

He wears a garland of severed heads, they tread on two victims. Diptachakra has one head and two hands, in which she holds a skull cup and a flaying knife.

14th century, Tibet, Vajrakila, gilt copper alloy with stones and pigments, private collection, photo by Pundoles.

On this image two of his attributes are missing but the kila peg is visible between his main hands.

14th century, Tibet, Vajrakila and consort, bronze (brass), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This heruka always has four legs (or a kila instead of legs),  the main left leg is always extended, the other is bent, the secondary legs are often smaller and dangling onto the lotus base.

Undated, Tibet, Vajrakila and consort, copper alloy, published in the Realm of Tibetan Buddhism, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

In the texts he is described as having a vajra finial on his chignon.




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, 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, Shakyamuni – bhumisparsha mudra (2)

12th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze with pigment, circular nimbus missing, private collection, photo by Pundoles.

On this rare and early sculpture, the chignon of the buddha is shaped like a lotus finial. The hem of his diaphanous garments (the dhoti much longer than the robe) is marked with incisions, there is no cloth folded over the left shoulder.

12th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Another, more standard, Pala-style work, with thick folds of cloth fanning over the lotus base, and an extremity of the garment neatly arranged over the left shoulder.

Circa 13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

A large majority of Tibetan metal sculptures depict the historical buddha at the moment of enlightenment, his right hand calling Earth to witness, the left hand cupped in the gesture of meditation.

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

This item illustrates the high degree of craftsmanship acquired by Tibetan artists many centuries ago.

The face of the buddha has been painted with cold gold and his hair dyed with blue pigment, probably lapis lazuli powder. One extremity of his outer garment is arranged in a swallow-tail shape over his left shoulder.

The back of the statue elegantly draped, and with lotus petals all around the base.

Circa 13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper and pigment, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The  triangular face and the use of black pigment in the hair are the ‘signature’ of a Newari artist working in Tibet, confirmed by the use of pure copper.

Circa 13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, white sandalwood, at the Fondation Alain Bordier in Gruyère (Switzerland).

The shape of the lotus petals on this rare work is very similar to those on the first sculpture in this post. The plinth is decorated with scrolls and there is a blue lotus on each side of the nimbus behind the buddha’s head.

Early 13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy with silver-inlaid eyes and copper-inlaid lips, nails and hem. Private collection, photo by Boran Asian Art, published on http://www.boranasianart.com.

The broad hem on the robe of his buddha (identified by the dharma wheels on the sole of his feet) is decorated with an incised and stippled geometrical pattern.


Tibet, Vajrasattva – various forms

Circa 14th century, Tibet, Vajrasattva, brass with  turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

In his peaceful form, Vajrasattva may be seated or standing. When seated he holds a vajra sceptre in his right hand at heart level, often upright, and a bell in the other against his hip. The thin celestial scarf forming a frame around the subject is typical of a group of metal sculptures attributed to 13th and 14th century Tibet.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Vajrasattva, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

A rare sculpture of the deity in his heruka form, seated in embrace with his consort and holding the attributes in the same way as Vajradhara would.

Bonhams point out that it is the sharp facial expression on his face that distinguishes him from the latter. (The fact that she holds the same attributes is another clue: Vajradhara’s consort would hold a vajra sceptre  and a skull cup).

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

Peaceful, with the consort.

12th-13th century, Tibet, Vajrasattva and consort, heruka form, brass with cold gold and pigments, is or was at Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

An extremely rare brass sculpture of the wrathful form of this buddha, with his consort. He holds the vajra sceptre upright before his heart and the bell against his hip, clad in  a tiger skin loin cloth and adorned with snakes, including a long one worn as a sacred thread. She wears a leopard skin, holds a knife and a skull cup and is adorned with snakes. Their face is painted with cold gold and pigments, their hair dyed with orange pigment. The stand on a double-lotus base complete with flaming mandorla.

Tibet, peaceful Vajrapani

9th-10th century, Tibet, probably Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

We have seen at least one example of Vajrapani holding a vajra sceptre in his right hand and the tall stem of a lotus in the other, instead of a bell. This figure stands with poise despite unusually broad shoulders and big limbs.

He has Pala-style facial features and accessories.

His short dhoti is richly incised and held in place with a belt decorated with a raining jewel pendant.

12th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This Vajrapani holds a vajra sceptre before his heart and a bell (ghanta) at hip level. He has a knee-length dhoti decorated with an incised lotus pattern  and is adorned with princely jewellery including floral earrings and a necklace with a heart-shaped bead in the middle.

There is an effigy of Akshobhya in his headdress.

There is no gilding at the back of the statue, which probably had a mandorla fastened to it.

12th-13th century (or 18th century?), Tibet, Vajrapani, copper alloy with silver and copper inlay, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA).

There is a debate as to whether this work actually dates from the 12th-13th century  or whether it is a Pala revival sculpture. The fact is that the sharpness of the petals on the pedestal and the chiselled effect of his plaited hair and of the flowers he holds are not typical of early Tibetan works, and his accessories are a curious mixture of styles and periods.

He is seated with his legs gathered loosely, leaning on his left hand in which he grasps the stem of a lotus. he holds a vajra sceptre horizontally in his right hand.

Tibet, Yellow Jambhala (13)

12th-13th century, Tibet, Jambhala, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Lempertz.

A West-Tibetan style work depicting Jambhala holding his citron and mongoose spitting jewels. He is seated on a double-lotus on a pedestal incised with a geometrical motif, his right foot resting on a vase attached to the base. He has a tall Pala-style chignon and a low tiara with large bows sticking out. Jambhala often wears two necklaces, a choker and a long necklace that forms a U shape over the middle of his chest. This one wears three necklaces and a sacred thread.

13th century, Tibet, Jambhala, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Koller.

Again, the style of the headdress and the many incised details point to Western Tibet, especially with the addition of a long foliate garland, normally seen on standing figures. He sits on a single lotus with tall stamens, broad petals with a heart-shaped centre and large beading at the bottom. His lower garment is held in place with belt decorated with a stippled motif.

He has an elaborate choker and a long necklace worn off centre. Even the rosettes and the bows on his tiara and the long braids of hair falling over his shoulders are incised.

Undated, Tibet, Jambhala, (labelled Kubera), bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Mossgreen.

This Pala-style figure seated on a lotus pedestal typical of the 12th century (circa) wears a long garment with a broad hem incised with a geometrical motif.