Tibet, lamas and their garments (3)

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

Early Tibetan sculptures normally depict lamas with a sleeveless undergarment, an outer robe which covers the lower undergarment, and a meditation cloak usually worn over the shoulders and wrapping the knees. The above is seated on a low double-lotus base with a backplate decorated with lotus buds and topped with a triratna (set of three gems). The style of his hat originates from the Dolpo area in Nepal.

The artist has used thick beading for the edge of the backplate, incisions for the patched robe, stippling for the floral decoration on the edge of the cloak and piping for the hems.

13th century circa, Tibet, Kagyu lama, copper alloy with copper inlay on mouth, nails and hem, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

The meditation cloak is pleated and has a small collar.

The hem of all the garments is often incised, with a floral or a geometrical pattern.

18th century, Tibet, Sakya lama, gilt metal, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

Sometimes the cloak has slipped off the lama’s shoulders and is piled up around him. We will note the waist of the lower garment showing, and the long strands of plaited hair.

14th-15th century, Tibet. lama, gilt copper, is or was at the Jokhang in Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

This lama doesn’t wear a cloak, his patched robe covers his legs down to the ankles. Traditionally, the right arm is left bare. He does the turning-the-wheel-of-dharma gesture with his hands.

15th century, Tibet, lama, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

As fashion evolves, the pleats of the lower garment gathered under the breast begin to show slightly under the outer robe around the 15th century.

15th-16th century, Central Tibet, lama, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Resources.

17th century, Tibet, lama, metal, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

At times, the waist of the garment, pleated and held in place with a belt, shows completely.




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, Amoghasiddhi – buddha appearance (2)

12th-13th century, Tibet, Amoghasiddhi, copper alloy with silver and copper inlay, private collection, photo by Nagel auctions.

Amoghasiddhi, in his buddha appearance, is seated in the vajra position, his right hand held in the fear-allaying gesture, the other in meditation.

His particularly tall chignon is topped with a lotus bud finial, he has copper inlaid lips and hem, silver inlaid eyes.

18th century, Tibet, Amoghasiddhi, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

18th century, Tibet, Amoghasiddhi, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

In Tibet, his right hand often does the vitarka mudra (thumb and forefinger pressed together). The fear-allaying gesture (above) is more common in Nepal and India, where he may also have both hands in the meditation gesture. Same as before, gilt copper alloy, same as before.

Same as before, gilt copper alloy, same as before.Traditionally, he holds a visvajra in his left hand (usually missing from sculptures).


Western Tibet, a few triads (2)

12th century, Western Tibet, triad, brass, is or was at the gTsug Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

These Kashmiri-style figures stand on  lotuses over a plinth supported by two snow lions and a yaksha, their faces painted with cold gold. Shakyamuni, at the centre, holds one end of his pleated sanghati in his left hand, the right hand does the fear-allaying gesture. Avalokiteshvara, to his right, holds a large lotus flower, the right hand does the gesture of supreme generosity. Vajrapani, on the other side, holds an upright vajra sceptre in his right hand, the left hand resting over his thigh.

Labelled 10th-11th century, Pakistan or Swat Valley (more likely Western Tibet), brass, published on http://www.arcimboldo-cz.

A very similar sculpture depicting the same characters.

12th century (or later copy?), Western Tibet, Threesome, Vajrapani, Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, brass, on http://www.gg-art.com.

Manjushri, at the centre, holds a blue lotus supporting a manuscript and a sword.

12th-13th century, Western Tibet, Guge or Purang, bodhisattvas, brass, copper, silver, gilding, private collection, photo by Hughes Dubois.

This singular work is a small reproduction of a life-size sculpture from the Khojarnath monastery in the Purang province of Western Tibet. Avalokiteshvaras torso (at the centre) is made of pure silver, his dhoti is made of brass with copper and silver inlay;  to his left, Manjushri holding a lotus that supports a manuscript, to his right, Vajrapani, his right hand cupped to hold a (missing) vajra sceptre upright. The figures have Kashmiri-style body shapes and proportions, the garlands of flowers and the design of the dhotis are typical of the Guge Kingdom area, the arch with Kirtimukha at the top and mythical creatures on each side are borrowed from Nepalese art.


Tibet, White Manjushri – standing (2)

Undated (11th century cir.?), Western Tibet, Manjushri, copper alloy with cold gold, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This Kashmiri-style sculpture depicts the bodhisattva of wisdom standing on a lotus over a stepped plinth, holding a blue lotus topped with a manuscript, his right hand held out in the fear-allaying gesture.

The top of the flaming mandorla behind him is decorated with a stupa (normally associated with Maitreya), some ribbons, a lotus, a crescent moon+sun symbol.

12th century circa, Tibet or Northeast India, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

The exaggeratedly tall foliate panels of the crown (with a rod at the back to secure them), the short lower garment and the soft facial features suggest that this late Pala-style sculpture was made by an Indian artist in Tibet or India for a Tibetan patron. The overall gilding is unusual for the period, both in Northeast India and Tibet.

12th-13th century, Western Tibet, copper alloy with cold gold and blue pigment, private collection, photo by www.castor-hara.com.

This Manjushri wears a crown made of three crescent moons, with side bows and flowing ribbons, some jewellery including a large floral necklace and matching armbands, a festooned belt with a lotus bud pendant at the front. There is a non-identified object in the palm of his right hand. Apart from the blue lotus topped with a manuscript, his other attribute, when peaceful, is the hilt of a sword coming out of another lotus, to his right. (We have  seen one West Tibetan example, from the Ashmolean Museum, holding a conch).

Possibly 14th century, Western Tibet, Manjushri, copper alloy, private collection, published on http://www.buddhacollectors.com

Many early Tibetan sculptures are singular (possibly because the artist didn’t have an original sculpture to work from) some of them are even clumsy, like the above, inspired by Indian Pala art (style of the lotus pedestal, exaggeratedly tall chignon and low tiara, punched navel, long dhoti). The head,  lotus and book are oversized, as is often the case with works from Western Tibet.

15th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt copper alloy and turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

This later figure includes elements borrowed from Newari art (gilding all over, foliate crown with five panels including a simplified Kirtimukha design at the front, ear loops with a lotus sprouting from them, short lower garment with semi-circular sash knotted to the left, belt with long pendant at the front).

The blue lotus to his left supports the Prajnaparamita sutra and the hilt of a sword.

17th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt copper alloy with stone inlay and pigments, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This Manjushri with Chinese-style facial features wears a long skirt-like embroidered silk garment held in place with a festooned belt, a long celestial scarf with fluttering ends, princely jewellery studded with turquoise and clear gems, like his belt. He does the ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘  gesture and holds the stem of a blue lotus supporting a tiny manuscript and the flaming hilt of a rather large sword.


Western Tibet, Manjushri with sword (2)

Undated (11th-12th century?), Western Tibet, Ngari, Manjushri, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Standing on a particularly elegant lotus pedestal, Manjushri brandishes a sword with a flaming tip and holds the stem of a blue lotus topped with a manuscript and inlaid with a triangular piece of lapis lazuli, a most unusual feature, especially as the Ngari style does not normally include stone or coral inlay.

His necklace and belt also includes lapis lazuli and his face is painted with cold gold. He wears a small crown with three triangular panels and ribbons.

He wears a long striped dhoti decorated with a stippled motif and held in place with a belt whose pendant ribbon seems to have been blown by the wind and casually rests across his left thigh.

Undated (12th century circa?), Western Tibet, Manjushri, same as before.

In imitation of the Indian Pala style, the artist has given this Manjushri an exaggeratedly tall chignon (incised rather than sculpted), low tiara, large side bows, and a festooned belt to hold his dhoti, whose folds stick out at knee level like rigid leaves.

Even the stem of the lotus and the blade of his sword are incised with a geometrical pattern.

Same as before.

Very few of these early works have reached us with their flaming halo. The flames on this one are irregular and lively.

His blue lotus is topped with pearls or gems.

12th-13th century, Tibet, Manjushri, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Koller.

Another Pala-style figure, with life-like torso and arms, a thin celestial scarf and a short dhoti that shows incised knee caps.

The incised and stippled features are typical of early works from Western Tibet.

Tibet, Khasarpana Lokeshvara (2)

12th-13th century circa, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

The major difference between the padmapani and khasarpana (sometimes called khasarpani) form of Avalokiteshvara seated is that the latter has several tiers of matted hair, and whereas in India he wears a very low tiara and princely jewellery, in Tibet, he usually has no crown and no jewellery, only a sacred thread.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Khasarpana Lokeshvara, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This form of Avalokiteshvara was particularly popular in India during the Pala period. There are few Tibetan images of him and most of them are a local adaptation of the Indian prototype. The above holds his right hand in the refuge-giving gesture (ring finger pressed against the thumb, other fingers slightly bent). He wears a sash, tightly drawn across his chest, and a short dhoti

There is an effigy of Amitabha in his coiffure and a foliate finial on top of his hair. His eyes are inlaid with silver in the Indian fashion (a small pupil close to the upper lid).

The garment is decorated with a tiny stippled floral motif and fastened with an incised belt knotted in a very ornate manner at the front.