Tibet, Karmapas (6)

14th century, Tibet, karmapa, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

This endearing figure is coiffed with the lotus hat worn by Karma Kagyu hierarchs, traditionally black and decorated with a visvajra (or a lozenge representing a visvajra) on the front panel, and clouds at the side. The border of his monastic garments is incised with a wavy pattern.

16th century, Tibet, karmapa, copper with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo by Tessier Sarrou.

To confuse the issue, this character wears a red lotus hat associated with other hierarchs (such as shamarpas and situpas) and traditionally decorated with jewels at the front, but his displays a visvajra.

17th-18th century, Tibet, labelled ‘possibly the first karmapa’, gilt copper, private collection, photo by Castor Hara.

The first five karmapas are thought to have worn a small black cap before the black lotus hat became their headdress (see the Himalayan Art Resources page on Hats of the Himalayas). This personage wears an ornate foliate crown with rosettes and ribbons, a half-vajra finial on top of his head, beaded jewellery and a ritual apron over his ample silk garments. He holds a vajra and ghanta crossed over his heart. The sculpture probably depicts him performing a ritual ceremony.

 

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Tibet, King Songtsen Gampo (3)

16th century, Tibet, Songtsen Gampo, gilt copper alloy, at the Prince of Wales Museum in Mumbai (India), published on http://www.mountainsoftravelphotos.com

King Songtsen Gampo is seated at royal ease, his right hand doing the fear-allaying gesture, the other resting over his knee. He wears a truncated conical hat topped with the head of Amitabha.

Undated, King Songtsen Gampo in his meditation cave at Yerpa, Tibet, photo on Wikipedia.

The thirty-third king of Tibet lived during the 7th century and introduced Buddhism to Tibet well before Padmasambhava was invited there by his grandson.

King Songtsen Gampo, Tibet, Trandruk Temple Monastery, Yarlung Valley, photo by Robert Fried on Alamy Stock.

He came from the Yarlung dynasty, based in Central Tibet.

King Songtsen Gampo, Tibet, Yumbulagang, Yarlung Valley, photo by Erik Törner on IMs photo archive.In an effort to strengthen the bond between the various Tibetan people and unifying the small kingdoms of Tibet, he wished for a written version of the Tibetan language to be invented. Thus the Tibetan alphabet and grammar were born.

Undated, Tibet, king Songtsen Gampo and his two wives, at the Jokhang in Lhasa, published on http://www.rinpoche.com.

He had two wives, one from Nepal and another from China.

18th-19th century, Tibet, king Songtsen Gampo, papier maché and leather ties, from the Bruce Miller collection on loan at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).

Tibet, various dalai lamas (2)

16th-17th century, Tibet, possibly the 2nd dalai lama, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

He holds a book in his left hand and does the teaching gesture with the other. The lotuses on each side support a vajra sceptre and a vajra-handled bell (ghanta). His voluminous silk garments are decorated with an incised border.

Undated (circa 16th century?), Tibet, Gendun Gyatso (2nd dalai lama), gilt metal, at the Tibet House museum in Lhasa (Tibet).

16th-17th century, Tibet, Gendun Gyatso, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonham’s.

17th century, Tibet, Gendun Gyatso, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Circa 18th century, Tibet, 3rd dalai lama, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

The third dalai lama is depicted with a pointed hat and plain monastic garments. There is a vajra sceptre in his right hand and a ghanta in the other.

Late 17th century, Tibet, 5th dalai lama, gilt bronze (copper alloy), at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This vivid portrait of the fifth dalai lama shows him holding a dharma wheel  in the palm of his left hand.

18th century, Tibeto-Chinese, 5th dalai lama, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.Here, the face is painted with cold gold and pigments and the hair dyed black. The prong in his left hand is all that remains from the object he once held (a book according to Sotheby’s). The seams of his patched robe are incised with a floral pattern and his cloak is decorated with dragons, the latter indicating that the piece was made for a Chinese patron.

Tibet, Chakrasamvara – 12 hands (7)

Undated (circa 16th century), Tibet, Chakrasamvara, gilt copper alloy with pigment and turquoise inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

The visvajra and crescent moon in his headdress are features also seen on Kalachakra sculptures but the latter would have 24 hands. The above has four heads and 12 hands, in which he normally holds the hide of an elephant, a drum, a skull cup, an axe, a noose, a flaying knife, Brahma’s four heads, a vajra stick and a staff, instead of which the above figure holds a scorpion (second left hand from the top).

Undated (16th century circa), Tibet, Chakrasamvara, private collection, photo by Da Cang auctions.

Like many paired deities with a wrathful appearance, they stand on Red Kalaratri and Black Bhairava, who embody ego and ignorance.

17th century, Tibet, Chakrasamvara, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Vajrayogini wears a garland of skulls, a bone apron, and holds a skull cup and a flaying knife.

In some cases there is a human skull in his headdress, opposite the crescent moon.

17th century, Tibet, Chakrasamvara, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with turquoise inlay, at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

He wears a garland of freshly severed heads.

18th century, Tibet, Chakrasamvara, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

There is a flaming jewel on top of his chignon.

Tibet, Yama (3)

15th century, Tibeto-Chinese, Yama, gilt copper alloy with pigments, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

Wrathful deities made by Tibetan artists for a Chinese patron often include heavy beaded jewellery with ornate festoons and pendants and matching accessories covering most of the subject’s body – concealing his ithyphallic nature.

18th century, Tibet, Yama Dharmaraja, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Rob Michiels.

When the sculpture is complete, Yama normally stands on a male buffalo over a victim lying on a lotus pedestal.

Apart from bone jewellery and accessories he wears a garland of severed heads. His skull crown may have three instead of five skulls.

18th century, Tibet, Yama, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

On this rare sculpture the buffalo, victim and pedestal are made of dark copper alloy, with traces of red pigment.

18th century, Tibet, Yama, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonham’s.

When depicted alone he wields a skull-tipped club or stick in his right hand and has a lasso in the other, his hand held in the corresponding wrathful gesture.

Known as karana mudra the gesture consists in the little finger and the forefinger being erect while the tip of the middle finger presses the tip of the thumb.

18th century, Tibet, Yama, solid gold, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

 

 

Tibet, Vajradaka (5)

17th century, Tibet, Vajradaka, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Mandarin Auction.

Undated (17th or later), Tibet, Vajradaka, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

These two figures are very similar in style. The vajra sceptre is missing on the first one, the second comes complete with the charcoal burner, which is round and has three legs shaped like animal heads.

18th century, Tibet, Vajradaka, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art.

The legs on this tripod are clearly shaped like pig’s heads.

Undated (17th or 18th century?), Tibet, Vajradaka, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

On this other masterpiece and the next one, his legs are crossed.

Undated , Tibet, Vajradaka, bronze, published in Art of the Himalayas, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Undated, Tibet, Vajradaka, bronze (copper alloy), photo by Tibetan Relics.

Centuries of devotion have smoothed the surface of this figure, who sits on a lotus base with large roundish petals typical of the 16th century.

Undated (circa 16th century?), Tibet, Vajradaka, copper alloy, at the Tibet House Museum in New Delhi, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

On this equally old example, Vajradaka stands with his right leg bent, the other straight, both of them partly out of the lotus base.

Undated (circa 16th century?), Tibet, Vajradaka, gilt metal, at Musée Guimet in Paris (France), photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

18th century, Tibeto-Chinese, Vajradaka, bronze and paint, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Parcel-gilt to suit the Chinese taste, this item has also been painted with red pigment, probably to accentuate his wrathful nature. He is seated on a tiger skin, the head of the animal placed between his feet.

 

Tibet, Vajradaka (4)

Undated, Tibet, Vajradaka, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This rare Vajradaka purification set is very similar to a circa 16th century brass one published in a previous post (sold by Christie’s). The square plinth with eight ornate legs supports a cylindrical pan perforated with holes (for the combustion of the charcoal inside) and decorated with an upright vajra. The deity squats on the lid, his hands crossed over his heart and holding a vajra sceptre and a vajra-handled bell, his head thrust back, the mouth wide open for the smoke to come out.

Undated (Malla period), Tibet, Vajradaka, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay, same as before.

This rare Nepalese-style item shows him standing with his right leg bent like most other wrathful deities do, and bedecked with turquoise-inlaid jewellery.

Undated, Tibet, metal, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

He is short and pot-bellied, and normally naked. The above wears a tiger skin dhoti worn with the tail of the animal at the front, a feature often seen on 18th-19th century sculptures.

16th century, Tibet, Vajradaka, brass, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

A side view of this example reveals long flaming hair gathered in a bunch.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Vajradaka, bronze, private collection, photo by Arcimboldo.

This one wears a helmet over his long hair, an interesting feature not normally associated with this deity.

Undated (circa 18th century?), Tibet, Vajradaka, metal, at the Museum der Kulturen in Basel (Switzerland).

 

Undated (18th or 19th century), Tibet, Vajradaka, brass, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

He is adorned with a garland of severed heads and some jewellery including earrings, armbands, bracelets, and anklets. This late example, who has his legs crossed, wears a flowing celestial scarf with serpentine ends and matching crown ribbons.

Undated, Tibet, Vajradaka, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

When this blog was created, hardly any images of Vajradaka were available. Now there are a lot more (partly thanks to the very useful Himalayan Art Resources website – see link in left-hand margin) and we can observe that he may be standing, squatting or seated, in which case his legs may be crossed, gathered before him with both knees bent, or loosely gathered with only one knee bent as above.