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.

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Tibet, Avalokiteshvara – standing (13)

10th-11th century, Western Tibet, copper alloy with traces of blue pigment and turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

One of the features that typifies a group of early West Tibetan sculptures is the tripartite crown made of three triangular foliate panels of more or less equal size.

Others are the way the garment and accessories are richly engraved with a floral or geometrical pattern, the dhoti being much shorter on one side, the way the thick folds drop at the front in a zig-zag shape. There is a 10th-11th century Avalokiteshvara at the Musée Guimet with a similar belt (see below).

10th-11th century, Western Tibet, brass with silver inlay, at Musée Guimet in Paris (France).

but instead of the usual antelope skin, Sotheby’s item is adorned with a broad sash – most unusual on West Tibetan works of that period.

 

The rim of his crown and his necklace are inlaid with turquoise (missing on the latter).

Undated, Tibet, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy and cold gold, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi (India), published on Himalayan Art Resources.

In his padmapani form Avalokiteshvara holds the long stem of a lotus in his left hand while the right hand dose the fear-allaying gesture (first item) or the gesture of supreme generosity (above).

15th century, Central Tibet, padmapani Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy, private collection.

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.

Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara (17)

Undated, Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, metal with traces of gilding, private collection, photo by Christie’s, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

The most popular four-hand form (chaturbhuja) of Avalokiteshvara, commonly referred to as Shadakshari Lokeshvara, sits with his main hands clasped at hear level to hold a wish-granting gem against his heart.

15th century, Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Lempertz.He holds a rosary  in his right hand and a lotus(missing here) in the other. He may have an effigy of Amitabha in his headdress…

Undated (circa 15th century?), Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, gilt metal with cold gold and pigment, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

… or just the head of Amitabha on his chignon.

The above wears a shawl with an incised pattern his hair is dyed with lapis lazuli powder, his lips are painted with red pigment.

16th century, Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, brass, private collection.

On this unusual sculpture he is seated on a lotus atop a throne covered with a cloth and supported by lions over a lotus base.

17th century, Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, copper alloy, at the Patan Museum (Nepal).

He normally sits in the vajra position.

17th century, Tibet, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection.

This is a rare image of him standing, adorned with jewellery and a billowing scarf with split serpentine ends.

17th-18th century (or earlier?), Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

On this masterpiece we see him seated on a double lotus base with large round petals often seen on earlier works (15th-16th century).

He wears the skin of an animal (deer or antelope) on his left shoulder.

Tibet, various female deities (3)

Undated (18th century?), Tibet, Sarasvati, bronze, Pala Revival style, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

Tibetan sculptures of Sarasvati, of Hindu origin, are very few. She has one  to three heads, two to six arms,  two legs, and normally sits as in the above manner to play a string instrument (vina) often missing. She may hold a book and a grain of rice instead. This one has a long dhoti decorated with large dots of copper and/or silver inlay in the Indian Pala manner.

18th century, Tibet (or China? Labelled China on Himalayan Art Resources), Sarasvati, bronze, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

A similar style work, with Chinese facial features, a plain dhoti and a different metal alloy.

Undated, Tibet, Pancha Raksha deity, gilt copper or copper alloy, at a mountain sanctuary, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Out of the five pancha raksha deities (the embodiment of five early Buddhist texts) only Maha Sahasrapramardana has one head and six hands and is always seated and adorned with peaceful ornaments. She normally holds a sword, an axe, a bow, an arrow, a lasso, her lower left hand does the gesture of supreme generosity (as above)

This deity holds a bow and an arrow, a lasso, and does the gesture of generosity with her lower left hand. The other two attributes seem to be another lasso (or noose) and a stem.

15th century, Tibet, Densatil, goddess, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

We have seen a very similar dancing figure with one head and four arms holding several objects among which a skull cup and a drum, an attribute missing from the lower left hand. The above sustains a trumpet made from a conch shell in her upper right hand. She has a conical chignon topped with a jewel.

Undated (circa 18th century), Tibet, Sitatapatra, bronze with cold gold and pigments, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (USA).

Sitatapatra, ‘the white parasol’, is depicted in her one-head and two-hand form, seated in the vajra position and holding a parasol with her left hand; the dharma wheel normally in her right hand is missing.

 

Tibet, Hevajra (3)

When depicted in embrace with his consort,  Hevajra may have 1 to 8 heads, 2 to 4 legs, 2 to 16 hands.

15th century, Tibet, Hevajra, gilt metal, photo by Walter Arader, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

They both wear bone jewellery and skull crowns, she has a bone apron (with raining jewel pendants in this case) and a garland of skull, he has a garland of fifty severed human heads.

16th century, Tibet, Hevajra, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Nagel.

She has a leg around his waist and holds a skull cup and a flaying knife.

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Hevajra, gilt copper alloy and stone inlay, at the Indian Museum in Kolkata (India), photo from the Huntington Archive.

In his guhyasamaja form, the skull cups in his left hand hold the god of water, the god of fire, the god of art, the god of the Moon, the god of the Sun, the god of Earth, Yama, the holder of wealth.

Circa 16th century?, Tibet, Hevajra, gilt copper, at the Fondation Alain Bordier in Gruyère (Switzerland).

and the skull cups in his right hands hold a horse, a donkey, a bull, a camel, a cat or an owl, an elephant, a man and a mythical creature  called sharabha (see the page on animals and mythical creatures at the top of the left hand column of this blog).

15th-17th century (closer to 17th), Tibet, Hevajra, gilt copper alloy with pigment and stone inlay, is or was at the Sakya monastery in Shigatse (Tibet), photo from the Huntington Archive.

Their hair is dyed with red pigment as is the case for most deities with a wrathful appearance.

Tibet, unidentified wrathful deities (3)

13th century, Tibet, unidentified, copper alloy with pigment, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

This masterpiece depicts a wrathful deity with three heads, six hands and four legs, clad in a tiger skin, adorned with snakes, a garland of skulls and a skull crown. jewellery and a thin celestial scarf, an elephant hide over his back.

He holds a skull cup and a vajra sceptre (instead of a flaying knife) in his main hands…

An arrow, a human corpse, a drum and possibly a vajra-noose in the others.

He stands on two victims, possibly Kalaratri and Bhairava.

There is a form of Yamantaka (Krishna Yamari) with three heads and six hands  who holds various attributes including a human corpse (impaled on a tree, on paintings), a noose and a vajra sceptre but he normally has two legs and one of his attributes is a sword.

15th century, Tibet, unidentified, brass, is or was at the Potala in Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

This rare item depicts a 17-head deity (four stacks of four heads plus one head on top, all of them with three eyes), in embrace with his consort who only has one head. It is not clear how many arms they each have. We have seen several examples of a rare form of namasangiti Manjushri with two hands held above his head, but they all have only one head, twelve hands and no consort.

17th century, Tibet, heruka, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.This  wrathful meditational deity is depicted with his consort, who holds a long-life vase in her left hand. Their other attributes are now missing.