Tibet, Shakyamuni seated (8)

13th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze (copper alloy) with silver and copper inlay, cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This remarkable sculpture of the historical buddha depicts him with a tall conical chignon topped with an equally conical lotus bud finial, almost as if to reach the sky.

His face and neck are painted with cold gold and pigments, the hair dyed with lapis lazuli powder, adding warmth to his facial features. The eyes are inlaid with silver. The piece of robe folded over his left shoulder reveals an incised pattern.

His delicates fingers were cast separately. The nails are inlaid with copper, the hem of his garments is inlaid with silver and copper. A tiny vajra sceptre is placed before him.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass with copper-inlaid lips and silver-inlaid eyes, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Although thousands of metal sculptures depicting Shakyamuni have been produced in Tibet, each one has specific features that makes it unique.  Here, the eyebrows form a single wavy line. His dhoti has a thick waistbandHe has an elongated neck with deep folds. The cloth over his shoulder is folded into a single narrow piece.

13th-14th century, Southern Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt metal, private collection, photo by Tenzing Asian Art.

This buddha’s slender waist, broad shoulders and big limbs, small rosettes over his ears, black pigment in his hair and tear-shaped urna on his forehead are (almost certainly) the work of a Nepalese artist. The hem of his clothes is decorated with an incised pattern and thick beading, the folds of the robe over his left shoulder are complemented by a highly original floral or raining-jewel pendant. A wheel of dharma is embossed on the sole of each foot.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with silver beaded rim, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The use of rich gilding and stone inlay seems a contradiction with the patchwork robe worn by the historical buddha as part of his vow of poverty, but this was the style favoured by Newari artists, often commissioned by Tibetan patrons during the early Malla period. The seams on the above sanghati are made of silver beading, the hem is incised with a rice grain pattern, one end forms two layers of pleats over his left shoulder.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze (brass), private collection, photo by Lempertz.

A curious figure with heavy eyelids and thick lips, incised hair curls, flat chignon topped with a flat finial. His transparent sanghati has a plain, thick hem, one end of the garment forming two foliate shapes over his left shoulder.

Undated (Pala Revival), Tibet, Shakyamuni, copper alloy, at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in  Stockholm (Sweden).



Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru (6)

Possibly 13th-14th century, Tibet or India?, Bhaisajyaguru, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This Pala-style figure depicts the most popular of the eight medicine buddhas, seated with his legs locked, his right hand palm out to hold an arura fruit (missing here), the left hand in the meditation gesture and supporting an object, normally a medicine bowl (which has often lost its lid or perhaps never had one). The hem of his robe is decorated with a small triangular pattern imitating sun rays.

Circa 14th century, Tibet or Nepal, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

The Nepalese style includes rich gilding, a lower pedestal and during the 13th-14th century buddhas may have rosettes above their ears. The use of copper alloy rather than copper and blue instead of black pigment in the hair points to a Nepalese artist in Tibet.

18th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, copper alloy with traces of cold gold, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This late work illustrates changes in the way buddha’s garments are worn.

Described as a lotus and a skull cup, his attributes are in fact a long-stemmed arura fruit in his left hand (whose palm is engraved with a lotus within a diamond shape, matching the lotuses on the hem of his robe) and a bowl in his left hand.

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, Vajradhara – alone (10)

14th-15th century, Tibet or Nepal, Vajradhara, gilt copper alloy, gilt copper, stone inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Vajradhara, his hands doing the ‘turning the wheel of dharma’ gesture, is identified by the attributes (vajra sceptre and bell) on the lotuses fastened to his elbows.

14th-15th century, Western Tibet, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

More often he holds the attributes in his hands crossed over his heart.

The above wears a long lower garment delicately engraved with a floral motif and a shawl over his shoulders.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt copper alloy with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Here, the ornate silk garment is held in place with a belt with raining jewel pendants that rest over his legs.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, bronze, private collection, photo by Marchance auctioneers.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradhara, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Galerie Hioco.

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).

Tibet, Amitayus – bodhisattva appearance (11)

11th century, Tibet, Amitayus, copper alloy, private collection, Bonhams.

Amitayus is an aspect of Amitabha usually depicted with a bodhisattva appearance.

13th century, Tibet, gilt metal with stone inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

His distinctive attribute is a long-life vase held in both hands.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Amitayus, (labelled Amitabha), at Kangmar, Shigatse (Tibet), photo from the Huntington Archive.

This richly adorned figure sits on a throne supported by a yaksha and two peacocks (Amitabha’s mount).

18th century, Tibet, Amitayus, (parcel) gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Arman Antiques.

The only buddha with a bodhisattva appearance who holds both hands in the meditation gesture is Amitayus. The parcel gilding and the celestial scarf flowing straight upward like the ribbons of the crown correspond to the Tibeto-Chinese style.

18th century, Tibet, Amitayus, parcel gilt metal and silver inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

For the sake of comparison, this Sino-Tibetan style work (made by a Chinese artist for a Tibetan patron) portrays Amitayus with a double chignon topped with a jewel, and an ample lower garment gathered loosely over his legs and most of the pedestal, both of which are also gilt.

18th century, Tibet, Amitayus, copper repoussé, silver and gold inlay, detachable ornaments, private collection, photo by Mossgreen.

Tibet, Manjushri – various forms

Undated (circa 11th century?), Western Tibet, Guge Kingdom, Ngari Manjushri, brass, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom,  is particularly easy to identify when he brandishes a sword. In his sthiracakra form he holds the Prajnaparamita tantra in his left hand at heart level, as above.

The tripartite crown with triangular panels and large rosettes, the foliate garland, the stippled decoration on the accessories and the incisions are typical of the Ngari area.

14th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt copper alloy, at the Rietberg Museum in Zürich (Switzerland), photo from the Hungtington Archive.

In his arapachana form he holds at heart level the stem of a lotus that supports the manuscript. According to the texts, it should be a blue lotus, which has a triangular shape because it is never fully open (unlike this one).

15th-16th century, Tibet, Guhyasamaja Manjuvajra, gilt copper, photo from the Huntington Archive.

One of the various forms of Manjushri derived from the namasangiti tantra, Guhyasamaja Manjuvajra may be with his consort or alone. He has three heads and six hands, in which he holds a flaming sword and a blue lotus (utpala) topped with a book (upper hands), a vajra sceptre and a bell -missing here from his main hands – a bow and an arrow (lower hands).

15th century, Tibet (labelled China on Himalayan Art Resources), Manjushri, gilt copper alloy and turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Originally, White Manjushri had no sword at all. From the 13th century onwards he started to be depicted with lotuses supporting the manuscript to his left and the hilt of a sword to his right.

Circa 15th century, Tibet, possibly Central Tibet (Tsang atelier), bronze (copper alloy), at Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, photo from the Huntington Archive.

His hands often do the ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘ gesture.

16th century, Tibet, Manjushri, gilt copper alloy with coral and turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Hayman Himalayan Art.

When seated, even if the hilt of a sword is not visible, the book on the lotus to his left is enough to identify him.