Tibet, Vajrayogini – variants (7)

16th-17th century, Tibet, Vajrayogini, copper alloy with stones and traces of paint, private collection, photo on VAN HAM.

Vajrayogini, in a rare form called vajrapravana on paintings (with a green body), standing on both feet and facing the viewer, brandishing a flaying knife in her right hand and holding a skull cup before her heart and a ritual staff in the crook of her left arm. She is adorned with a five-skull crown, a garland of severed head, bone jewellery, a half-vajra finial, and wears an animal skin around her waist.

Undated, Tibet, Vajrayogini, gilt bronze (copper alloy), at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (USA).

Another rare image of Vajrayogini, probably in her Maitri Kachod form, standing on both feet and facing the viewer, holding a vajra sceptre pointing to her right foot and a skull cup before her heart, adorned with bone ornaments and a garland of severed heads, her mouth open to reveal her bared fangs. This form may have loose black hair; the above has an Indian-style braided chignon topped with a finial just like the figure we saw from the Royal Ontario  museum.

Undated, Tibet, Naro Mkha’Spyod Ma (Naro Khachoma), gilt bronze, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York (USA).

Vajrayogini in her Sarvabuddha Dakini aspect never looks at the viewer. Her head is turned towards the skull cup she holds in her left hand to drink from it. She always holds her flaying knife downwards, towards her right foot. In Tibet she is known as Naro Khachoma and other similar names.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Vajrayogini, gilt copper alloy with polychromy, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA).

She has the aspect of a young girl and may stand on one or both feet, usually on one or two victims.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Vajravarahi (labelled ‘Dakini’), gilt copper (or copper alloy), private collection?, photo on GG-ART

The Vajravarahi form is identified by the sow’s head coming out of her right temple. Always facing the viewer, she stands in a dancing posture, her right leg in the air, the other on Hindu goddess Kalaratri. She wears a skull crown and a garland of severed heads, brandishes a flaying knife above her head and holds a skull cup before her heart. A ritual staff (missing here) is usually propped against her left arm.

Circa 15th century, Tibet, Vajrayogini, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by John Siudmak.

The Vajradakini form has the same appearance as Vajravarahi but without the sow’s head.


Tibet, Yellow Jambhala (18)

16th-17th century, Tibet, Jambhala (labelled ‘Kubera’), wood, private collection, photo on Drouot.

Yellow Jambhala, an emanation of buddha Ratnasambhava, has a peaceful yaksha appearance and is nearly always seated, holding a jewel-spitting mongoose in his left hand and a citron or a gem-shaped fruit in the other at knee level. The above wears a celestial scarf and cross-belt.

17th century, Tibet, Jambhala (labelled ‘Kubera’), bronze, stones and plinth renovated, private collection, photo on Gazette Drouot as before.

He sometimes has a pot of gems against his right arm and his right foot usually rests on a pot of gem welded to the base.

17th century, Tibet, Jambhala (labelled ‘Kubera’), bronze (brass), private collection, photo on Drouot .

An example with an incised geometrical motif around the plinth and on his garment.

18th century or earlier, Tibet or Nepal, Jambhala, gilt bronze with turquoise (and glass), private collection, photo on  Gazette Drouot.

We have seen quite a few sculptures of him sitting on a lotus atop an openwork base supported by vases of abundance.

Undated (circa 16th century?), Tibet, Jambhala, gilt bronze with turquoise and coral inlay, private collection?, photo on GG-ART .

On this masterpiece with Chinese-style features, such as the shape of his topknot and the fat lotus petals with a curly tip, the mongoose is vividly and realistically rendered.

Tibet, Marpa Chokyi Lodrö (3)

Undated, Tibet, lama, brass with silver and copper inlay, photo on Auction ArtAn elderly Marpa, seated at ease on a cushion covered with a blanket, his thick hair combed back, his clothes covering both arms (indicating that he was a layman, not a monk) and decorated with silver and copper roundels and silver-beaded seams.

16th century, Tibet, Marpa Chokyi Lodro, stone (with cold gold and pigments), photo by Hanhai Auction on HAR .

Few sculptures depict him as a younger man. The above has a moustache and wears earrings. His is seated on a small cushion atop a plinth decorated with a gilt motif and gems. He wears an unusual open-breast garment on top of his gown and a meditation cloak over his shoulders.

17th century, Tibet, Marpa, silver, private collection, photo on Artkhade

This famous Tibetan teacher (lama) and translator (lotsawa) is often shown frowning and with both hands over his knees.

Undated, Tibet Marpa Chokyi Lodro, metal (brass), private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources See biographical notes on HAR and on Treasury of Lives


Tibet, Mahakala – Shadbhuja (10)

12th-14th century, Tibet, Mahakala, black chlorite, private collection, photo on Aguttes , Arts d’Asie 11th December 2017.

A rare stone stele of Mahakala with six arms, standing with his legs apart, treading on Ganapati and holding a flaying knife and a skull cup in his main hands. There is a rosary of skulls in his top right hand and a lasso in his lower left hand, the upper right hand would have held a trident or a ritual staff, the lower right hand held a drum. This form of shadbhuja Mahakala has a blue body on paintings.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, clay, private collection, photo on Aguttes as before.

An unusual clay example with Ganapati seated in an awkward position, facing the viewer and holding his right hand palm out. Mahakala stands in a fighting posture and has a ritual staff in his upper left hand.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo on  Navin Kumar .

A Chinese-style image of him standing straight, adorned with a celestial scarf with serpentine ends, dressed in a long lower garment made of two layers of fine cloth with a lacy edge, topped with a tiger skin knotted at the front.

Circa 18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze with pigments, Science Museum Group Collection (UK), photo here .

We get a clearer picture of four of the attributes here and we can see that the upper hands also hold an elephant hide stretched across his back and that he is adorned with a garland of severed heads, a five-skull crown and some jewellery. Ganapati holds a skull cup in his right hand.

18th century, Tibet, Shadbhuja Mahakala, gilt bronze with polychromy, private collection, photo on Tajan , Art d’Asie, 11th June 2018.

On this late Chinese-style work his tiger skin loin cloth is worn with the tail of the animal reaching the base (see the “tiger-skin loin cloth” subsection of the page on Wrathful Deities in the left-hand side of this blog).

Tibet, Naga Kings (5)

14th century, Tibet, Nagaraja, wood with traces of lacquer, private collection, photo on Aguttes

Coiffed with a five-naga hood, this naga king holds a vajra-handled banner with both hands.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Naga Kings (labelled ‘dragons’), gilt copper, private collection, photo on Hanhai Auction  .

14th-15th century, Tibet, Naga Kings (labelled ‘dragons’), gilt copper, private collection, photo by Hanhai Auction, as above.

Nepalese-style naga kings featured on arches/backplates usually hold a dharma wheel at head level in one of their hands. These two have a hood made of three cobra snakes.

Circa 17th century, Tibet, Nagaraja, gilt copper repoussé, rock crystal, private collection, photo on Christie’s

A four-armed variant, holding the claw of a (missing) garuda in one of his right hands and a solar wheel with a large rock crystal cabochon in the upper left hand, a sword likely missing from his lower left hand. No identification as to the object in his lower right hand so far.

He has a seven-cobra hood and is adorned with princely jewellery, including floral earrings inlaid with turquoise and coral and a crown with a wheel at the front.

Tibet, Phagpa Lokeshvara – variants (3)

Undated, Tibet or Nepal, probably wood (with cold gold and pigments), at the Potala in Lhasa, photo in article on asianart.com by Ian Alsop.

One of the many reproductions of the original Nepalese image of Avalokiteshvara thought to have been brought to Lhasa during the 7th century and known as Phagpa Lokeshvara. He has a moon-like face, typical of Tibetan sculptures, and a small raised effigy at the front of his crown.

Unlabelled (Tibet or Nepal, wood with pigments), photo on  HAR 

Also with Tibetan facial features, coiffed with a tall crown made of three thin leaves of equal height, unlike most of the others we have seen so far, his folded hair showing on each side; there is an effigy of himself at the front, a feature unique to this form of Avalokiteshvara. He wears the usual large bell-shaped lotus earrings, knotted sash and floral belt. Two noteworthy ornaments are his long beaded necklace and some armlets placed very low down, possibly to hide the joint at elbow level.

13th century, place of origin unknown, Phagpa Lokeshvara, zitan (red sandalwood), private collection, photo on Sotheby’s

Despite the absence of the corresponding body this rather stern and tight-lipped head is interesting because of the effigy at the front of the crown.

The miniature Phagpa Lokeshvara has soft Tibetan facial features, with large eyes and fleshy lips, and as he doesn’t wear a crown we can see the intricacy of his topknot.

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Phagpa Lokeshvara, wood (with traces of gilding), private collection, photo on Koller

We came across one case with the arm out of place and subsequently restored to its original state. Koller tell us that the statue’s right arm has been repaired and this is probably why he is doing the fear-allaying gesture, which does not correspond to this form of Avalokiteshvara.

He has uncharacteristic Chinese-style slanted eyes and eyebrows and wears a plain crown and elaborate lotiform earrings.

17th-18th century, Tibet, gilt wood with polychromy, private collection, photo on Marques Dos Santos 

Standing on a lotus pedestal rather than on a square base, his skin painted with cold gold, his mass of hair bulkier and nearly reaching the tallest part of the crown.

A photo taken at a different angle of what appears to be the same sculpture can be seen on Astamangala . On it, the hair doesn’t seem to go above the tip of the side leaves of the crown and the lotus base hasn’t been stripped. There seems to be painted pattern on his dhoti.


Tibet, Avalokiteshvara – four arms (23)

13th century, Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, brass with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo on Bonhams .

An early brass sculpture of the most popular four-arm form of Avalokiteshvara, who holds a wish-granting gem at heart level in his main hands, a rosary and a lotus (or lotus bud in this case) in the others.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, brass with silver-inlaid eyes and copper-inlaid lips, traces of cold gold, private collection, photo on Van Ham 2016  .

14th-15th century, Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, brass with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo on Barnebys .

15th century, Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, bronze, private collection, photo on  Hardt 2019

This one has a large effigy of Amitabha on top of his Indian-style braided chignon.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, copper alloy with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Koller, sale W245AS.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Shadakshari Lokeshvara, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo on Drouot, sale 10th October 2017.

The antelope skin over his left shoulder is not specific to this form of Avalokiteshvara but appears from time to time. The above has Kirtimukha at the front of his crown.