Tibet, various mythical creatures (3)

(See also the page on mythical creatures and animals in the left margin of this blog)

Circa 17th century, Tibet, Kirtimukha (labelled ‘khyung’), gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Nagel  .

In Tibetan art Kirtimukha devours vegetation that sticks out of his large mouth and may also have strings of jewels or three round jewels in it, as above. His horns are like sprigs. The symbol on his head represents a crescent moon, a sun disc and the dissolving point of the primordial sound (nada in sanskrit).

16th-17th century, Tibet, prabhamandala, copper alloy repoussé, with turquoise, coral, lapis lazuli, private collection, photo on Bonhams .

In sculpture he often holds a snake and has a beak like a garuda, which is confusing, especially when featured on a small scale work such as the front leaf of a crown.

16th-18th century, Tibet, copper alloy thogchak, garuda, photo on Bonhams  .Garudas hold a long snake in their beak and in their hands. They have a full body, with an eagle beak, bird legs and wings, and their horns are like a bull’s.

16th century, Tibet, Sharabha (labelled ‘mythical animal’), copper repoussé, private collection, photo on Tessier-Sarrou .

On Nepalese and Nepalese-style back plates, viyalas or sharabhas are usually between the lions and the makaras and have a human figure half crouching on their back. Sharabhas have the head of a goat, the horns of a ram or a mountain goat, the mane of a lion, and the body and legs of a (rearing) horse, usually with the claws of an eagle.

15th-16th century, Tibet, throne aureole, gilt copper, private collection, photo by Koller, sale A187AS.

Viyalas may be half-lion half-horse, in which case they stand on their hind legs. On this back plate each viyala stands on an elephant and looks at a bodhisattva. Above them, a makara, and at the top, a garuda.

18th-19th century, Tibet, Naga, gilt copper repoussé and pigment, private collection, photo on Koller

A naga king with a five-naga hood, holding a conch shell in his right hand.


Tibet, Padmasambhava – variants (7)

18th century, Tibet, Padmasambhava, silver alloy, private collection, photo on Bonhams.

Padmasambhava with a child-like appearance, seated at ease on a lotus, his eyes wide open, a skull cup containing a long-life vase in his left hand, a ritual staff propped against his shoulder, a vajra sceptre in his right hand placed above his knee. He wears his distinctive lotus hat with a moon and sun symbol at the front, topped with a vulture feather and streamers, and a cape over his shoulders.

16th century, Tibet, Padmasambhava, gilt bronze with pigments, private collection, photo on Bonhams .

With a grown-up appearance but no facial hair, seated with his legs locked, the vajra sceptre pointing to his heart.

18th century, Tibet, Padmasambhava, bronze (copper alloy) with cold gold, pigment and turquoise, private collection, photo on  Drouot .

With a thin moustache and goatee.

16th century, Tibet Padmasambhava and consorts, bronze, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 18519 lot 22.

With his consorts, Mandarava and Yeshe Tsogyal.

Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru (9)

15th-16th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s

The main medicine buddha holds an arura fruit in his right hand, facing palm out, and a bowl filled with nectar in the other, always placed over his lap in the meditation gesture.

16th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt bronze, cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo on Nagel .

On occasions he holds a branch of the arura tree laden with fruit in his right hand. The above has a ritual vase in his left hand containing a large open lotus topped with the effigy of Amitabha.

18th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Nagel .

This one also holds a branch with date-like fruit in his right hand. The vase in his left hand contains something that looks similar, although it could be a stalk with lotus buds.

15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, bronze and silvered steel throne with cold gold (later backplate, probably Chinese?), private collection, on origineexpert 21st July 2013 lot 235.

Tibet, various buddhas (5)

18th century, Tibeto-Chinese, Nagaraja, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on GG-ART   

Nageshvara/Nagaraja, with a naga-hood made of seven snakes, his fingers knitted in a gesture specific to him.

13th century, Tibet, Vajravidarana, wood with traces of gilding and lacquer, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (UK).

Vajravidarana with a peaceful face and princely attire (white form), holding a (missing) visvajra before his heart and a vajra bell against his left hip.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Virasena, gilt bronze, private collection, photo and details on Bonhams  

Virasena, identified through an inscription on the back of the sculpture, is one of the 35 buddhas of confession. He is depicted holding the stem of lotuses that support the hilt of a sword and a manuscript.

Tibet, Yama Dharmaraja (6)

16th century, Tibet, Yama Dharmaraja, Inner, stone, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources

On rare occasions Yama Dharmaraja, protector of the buddhist faith, has a human head or a yaksha head, as on this remarkable stone stele. In his inner form he is always alone, has a blue-black body, stands with one leg bent (usually the left one) and the other straight, holds a flaying knife away from him in his right hand and a skull cup before his heart in the other.

18th century, Tibet, Yama Dharmaraja (labelled ‘Yamantaka’), gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Millon (see below).

18th century, Tibet, Yama Dharmaraja, gilt bronze, photo on 1stdibs

Often confused with Sahaja Vajrabhairava, the outer form of Yama Dharmaraja (also with a buffalo head and ithyphallic) stands on a prostrate male buffalo crushing a female victim, with both arms stretched. In all his forms, this dharmapala wears a three-skull or five-skull crown, a chain with a dharma wheel plate, bone ornaments, and may have a garland of severed heads round his neck.

16th or 17th century, Tibet, Yama and Yami, bronze (copper alloy), at the museum of ethnology in Hamburg (Germany), photo on VCAM  

In his outer form, with his consort and twin sister, he brandishes a skull-tipped mace or a club in his right hand and holds a lasso in the other, Yami holds a skull cup and a trident. On this relatively early example (most Himalayan sculptures of this deity are late Chinese-style works) he has a human face with three eyes, and the female victim is under their feet on the buffalo’s back.

Tibet, Hayagriva – alone (3)

13th century (or later?), (Tibet), Hayagriva, copper alloy with cold gold and pigment, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

With one head adorned with a five-skull crown and topped with a horse’s head, two hands, two legs, this Hayagriva wields a skull-tipped mace in his right hand and holds a skull cup in the other. He is clad in a tiger skin loin cloth, the head of the animal ‘devouring’ his bent knee, and wears a Chinese-style celestial scarf with serpentine ends.

Circa 18th century, Tibet, Hayagriva, bronze with pigment, private collection, photo on Auction Art, Arts d’Asie 16th December 2011.

When his left hand does the karana mudra, the right hand usually holds a vajra sceptre.

17th century, Tibet or Mongolia, Hayagriva, gilt bronze and red pigment, at the Baltimore Museum of Art (USA).

Red Hayagriva with three heads, each one with three eyes and a skull crown, six hands and six or eight legs trampling on (missing) nagas, identified by the three neighing horse’s heads in his flaming hair. He wears a tiger skin loin cloth, a human hide and an elephant hide on his back, a garland of severed heads, bone jewellery, a sacred cord made of human hair. There is a vajra sceptre in his upper right hand, the upper left one does the karana mudra, his other attributes now lost would have been a staff, a sword, a spear, a lasso.

18th century, Tibet, Hayagriva (labelled ‘Mahakala’), bronze (copper alloy with cold gold and pigment), private collection, photo on Tessier-Sarrou.

The hilt of a sword in the middle right hand is all that remains in this case.

18th-19th century, Tibet, Hayagriva (labelled ‘Vajrapani’), private collection, photo by Freemans, lot 50 Asian Arts 10th September 2016.Standing on a bed of snakes (nagas).

Tibet, Vajrakila (5)

15th century, Tibet, Vajrakila, brass, private collection, Images of Devotion on Capriaquar

Vajrakila with 3 heads, 6 arms, 4 legs, standing on two victims and embracing his consort, Dipta Chakra. His main hands hold a kila peg behind her back, the upper hands hold a nine-prong vajra sceptre and some flames, the lower ones hold a five-prong vajra sceptre and a trident.

He wears a tiger skin loin cloth and has the hide of an elephant across his back. She holds a flaying knife and a skull cup.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Vajrakila dagger, bronze, private collection, photo on Lempertz

With three heads and six arms, no legs, alone, holding the same attributes. Below him, a makara head and the three-sided blade of the kila.

16th century, Central Tibet, Vajrakila/Vajrakumara and consort, copper alloy with traces of paint, at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (USA).

As one of the eight herukas, he may have wings.