Tibet, Manjushri – various forms (9)

12th century, Tibet, Manjushri, painted wood, photo on Fondation, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

A very old and well preserved wooden sculpture of a peaceful bodhisattva flanked by blue lotuses, each supporting a manuscript. His right hand does the gesture to bestow refuge but with the forefinger and the middle finger twisted.

12th-13th century, Tibet, Dharmasankha Samadhi Manjushri, brass, photo on Fondation, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

Until now we have only seen one other Tibetan sculpture depicting this rare form of White Manjushri seated in the vajra position with both hands in the gesture of meditation. He is flanked by blue lotuses supporting a manuscript to his right and a half vajra sceptre to his left and wears princely accessories, a long lower garment and a sash across his chest.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Manjushri, brass with turquoise inlay, photo on Fondation, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

A Pala-style White Manjushri seated in a relaxed manner and leaning on his left arm. This form of the bodhisattva normally does the fear-allaying gesture with his right hand but in this instance his right arm and hand are resting against his raised leg. He holds the stem of a blue lotus supporting a manuscript and the blue lotus on the other side supports the hilt of a sword.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Manjushri (labelled ‘bodhisattva’), gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 9822 lot 114, London.

From the 13th century onwards he is usually depicted with his his hands ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘ and flanked by lotuses or with lotuses fastened to his arms, the one to his right supporting the hilt of a sword, the other supporting the Prajnaparamita sutra (either of them barely visible here).

Undated (circa 15th century?), Tibet, Arapachana, Manjushri, bronze, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, photo HAR .

The bodhisattva of wisdom seated on a lotus base with his legs locked, brandishing a sword in his right hand and holding a book in the other, upright and at heart level. He wears a long dhoti, a small tiara and princely jewellery.

15th-16th century (Tibet or Nepal?), Manjushri, gilt bronze, private collection photo on Ethereal .

Namasangiti Manjushri with one head and four arms, seated in the vajra position and holding a sword and a bow in his upper hands, an arrow and a book in the lower ones, the latter before his heart, as described in the sadhanamala tantra.

Unlabelled, (circa 13th century?, Tibet, Namasangiti Manjushri, brass with cold gold and pigment), Seer Photographic Collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources .

A singular work featuring Manjushri with one head and four arms, his lower right hand in the gesture of supreme generosity, the upper one brandishing a sword, his (rather large) lower left hand clutching the stem of a blue lotus, the remaining hand holding a book before his heart. He is adorned with a crown, princely jewellery and a garland of blue lotuses (utpala).

Tibet, famous lamas (21)

18th century, Tibet, Marpa, lacquered wood with cold gold and pigments, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

The famous translator Marpa Chokyi Lodro (11th century), instantly recognisable with his layman’s clothes, his thick hair, short neck and distinctive facial features, is often depicted with his hands over his knees.

18th century, Tibet, Gampopa, lacquered wood with cold gold and pigments, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

A young Gampopa Sonam Rinchen (11th century) wearing the full monastic garb and coiffed with the red Kagyu hat. Originally a student of medicine, he became a monk at an early age after losing his wife and child.

18th century, tibet, Longchenpa, painted clay, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

This Nyingma lama, who lived during the 14th century, wrote a comprehensive book on buddhism in Tibet and is regarded as a manifestation of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Sonam Lhundrup, brass with silver and copper inlay, photo Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

The famous abbot of Mustang, who is usually shown as a rotund and balding man, does the ‘turning the wheel of law’ gesture with his hands. He has silver-inlaid eyes (with no pupils), copper-inlaid lips, and the border of his garments has silver and copper inlaid motifs.

16th century, Tibet, Tangton Gyalpo, brass, photo on Fondatian Alain Bordier as before , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères.

The great Tibetan engineer Tangtong Gyalpo, his hair gathered in a topknot with a finial, his  chest bare, the shoulders covered with a meditation cloak, his right hand in the gesture of debate (vitarka mudra) and holding a pill between thumb and forefinger. He would normally have a long-life vase in his left hand rather than another pill.

17th century, Tibet, dpag.bsam dbang.po, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 17719 lot 232, Paris.

Pagsam Wangpo, who lived during the first part of the 17th century, is identified by an inscription on the base. He wears the tall fan-shaped hat of the Drukpa order and does the gesture of generosity with his right hand. The left hand is in the gesture of debate.

18th century, Tibet, Dragpa Gyaltsen, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Galerie Zacke  .

Dragpa Gyaltsen is depicted as a deified lama, holding a vajra sceptre and a vajra bell in his hands together with the stem of lotuses that support he hilt of a sword and a manuscript. It is the first time we see him with a hat; it has a lotus and jewel finial and is decorated at the front with a visvajra symbol.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Drukpa Kunley, gilt copper repoussé, private collection, photo by Galerie Zacke.

Like other tantric practitioners with eccentric teaching methods, this lama has sometimes been regarded as mad and outrageous yet he became a prominent member of the Tibetan monastic community, and the patron saint of Bhutan – where he is associated with fertility rituals. On this copper plaque he is accompanied by devotees.

Tibet, Karmapas (9)

13th century, Tibet, 1st Karmapa, brass with silver and copper inlay, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

This masterpiece depicts Düsum Khyenpa seated on a throne covered with a cloth and decorated with a dharma wheel at the front, his right hand extended in the gesture of supreme generosity, the other may have held a manuscript. He wears the full monastic garb, including a thick woollen meditation cloak, and the distinctive hat worn by karmapas.

16th century, Tibet, 1st Karmapa, painted wood, photo here , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

On this later portrait the hierarch does the gesture of calling Earth to witness with his right hand. We can see a summary visvajra symbol at the front of his hat.

14th century, Tibet, karmapa, brass, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

This unidentified karmapa is seated on a throne supported by lions and yakshas and decorated with a triple gem surrounded with flames (triratna) at the front. His cloak is made of strips of fabric with a lotus pattern also visible on the border of his vest.  Instead of lying flat on the fabric, the sun disc and a crescent moon symbol at the top of this hat have been sculpted separately.

15th century, Tibet, 3rd karmapa, gilt brass, photo same as before, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

Rangjung Dorje, seated in the vajra position, his bare feet showing, his hands placed over his knees.

16th century, Tibet, 3rd karmapa, gilt copper, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

The same man, his legs wrapped in his cloak, his (rather large) hands also placed over his knees, his tall hat topped with a lotus bud finial.

16th century, Tibet, karmapa, silver, photo on as before, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

Probably designed for a portable shrine, this small image (5 cm tall) depicts a hierarch with a manuscript placed sideways in his left hand. His right hand does an unusual downwards gesture, possibly a variant of the gesture of debate/teaching. Despite the small size, the artist has taken the trouble to sculpt the creases of the vest, the folds of the patched outer garment, the visvajra at the front of the hat and the lotus bud on top of it.

18th century, Tibet, 8th karmapa, gilt copper, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

Mikyo Dorje, a manuscript in his left hand.

16th century, Tibet, 9th Karmapa, painted wood, photo and location as before.

Wangchuk Dorje is seated on a single cusion with a large vajra sceptre motif. There is a manuscript in his left hand.

18th century, Tibet, karmapa, wood, photo as before, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

This elderly man has both hands in the gesture of meditation and may have held a long-life vase or another attribute.

Tibet, snow lions (3)

9th century, Tibet, squatting lion, brass, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier , at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

9th century, Tibet, squatting lion, brass, photo as before, at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

These two very old and very rare lions have tenons under their paws, which means that they were fastened to a base or, as suggested by the Museum, that they were perhaps the handle of a larger object. The smooth contours, the elegant curve of the back, the position of the head and the large incised eyes are reminiscent of Scythian art.

15th-16th century, Tibet, snow lion, brass, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

This snow lion with a curly mane seems to be crouching by two large lotus flowers.

Circa 17th century, Tibet, snow lion, gilt copper repoussé, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 1492 lot 193.

We are more familiar with these plaques featuring a snow lion wearing a collar with a bell, his mane, ears, the end of his tail and the long hair on his legs dyed with blue pigment.

Nepal, paired deities (2)

16th century, Nepal, Guhyasamaja Hevajra (labelled ‘Hrdaya Hevajra’), gilt bronze with pigment, private collection, photo by Andrew Lau for Hollywood Galleries on issuu .

A popular form of Hevajra, with eight heads (a circle of seven plus one), four legs and sixteen arms, in embrace with his consort Varjanairatmya, holding skull cups containing real and mythical animals, a man, and various deities.

16th century, Nepal, Chakrasamvara, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s .

Samvara with 4 heads and 12 hands, in embrace with his consort, who holds a skull cup and a flaying knife. His top hands hold the (broken) hide of an elephant stretched across his back, his main hands hold a vajra sceptre and a bell across Vajrayogini’s back, the remaining right hands hold a drum, an axe, a flaying knife and a stick or a trident. The left hands hold a (missing) ritual staff, a skull cup, a noose, Brahma’s head with four faces.

Tibet, mahasiddhas – unidentified (9)

14th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha, gilt copper, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

This tantric practitioner with matted hair may have held a vajra sceptre in his right hand. He is adorned with a necklace and wears a long dhoti and a garment barely covering his left shoulder.

15th-16th century (or later?), Tibet, labelled ‘Virupa’, gilt copper repoussé, private collection, photo by Origin Expert, 21st July 2013 lot 231.

This Chinese-style work depicts a character with a third eye, flaming hair, a skull crown, silk garments, the upper one with sleeves, bone jewellery and a cross belt, no yogic strap. He wields a vajra sceptre in his right hand and holds a skull cup before his heart (none of which corresponds to standard images of Virupa).

16th century, Tibet, labelled ‘Mahasiddha Virupa’, gilt bronze with sliver, coral and turquoise inlay, private collection, photo on Galerie Zacke .

A completely different style, and singular if indeed it is a portrait of Virupa. His hair is gathered in a small bun, he wears a four-pointed cap reminiscent of early Kashmiri works, a small tiara and some earrings, all of them inlaid with large cabochons, no floral accessories or yogic belt, his hands are in the gesture of meditation.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 17457.

This elderly man with an elongated torso and long limbs (typical of 17th century Tibet) is seated with a leg pendant, atop a lotus seat with an elaborate plinth. We have come across several unidentified mahasiddhas with a similar ovoid container next to them. Both the base and the lid have the shape of a lotus flower.

Tibet, various mahasiddhas (6)

13th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha Humkara, brass, photo on Fondation Alain Bordier at the Tibet Museum in Gruyères (Switzerland).

An inscription at the back of the base identifies this character as Humkara, one of the eight vidhyadgharas, a group of particularly accomplished tantric practitioners. This elegant Pala-style masterpiece depicts him with a visvajra in his right hand, two necklaces, a thin scarf drawn across his chest and folded over his right shoulder, a long dhoti held in place with a skilfully knotted belt.

16th century, Tibet, Mahasiddha Dhaluli, Southern Tibet or Mustang, wood, private collection, photo by Andrew Lau for Hollywood Galleries on issuu .

Dhahuli/Dhahulipa, who was a rope maker, is identified by the piece of rope in his left hand. His right hand does a gesture to ward off evil (karana mudra). He is adorned with a floral crown, bone jewellery and a cross belt.

16th century, Tibet, Tilopa, gilt metal and paint, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources  .

Tilopa always holds a fish in one hand and often has a skull cup in the other.