Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru (6)

Possibly 13th-14th century, Tibet or India?, Bhaisajyaguru, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This Pala-style figure depicts the most popular of the eight medicine buddhas, seated with his legs locked, his right hand palm out to hold an arura fruit (missing here), the left hand in the meditation gesture and supporting an object, normally a medicine bowl (which has often lost its lid or perhaps never had one). The hem of his robe is decorated with a small triangular pattern imitating sun rays.

Circa 14th century, Tibet or Nepal, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

The Nepalese style includes rich gilding, a lower pedestal and during the 13th-14th century buddhas may have rosettes above their ears. The use of copper alloy rather than copper and blue instead of black pigment in the hair points to a Nepalese artist in Tibet.

18th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, copper alloy with traces of cold gold, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This late work illustrates changes in the way buddha’s garments are worn.

Described as a lotus and a skull cup, his attributes are in fact a long-stemmed arura fruit in his left hand (whose palm is engraved with a lotus within a diamond shape, matching the lotuses on the hem of his robe) and a bowl in his left hand.


Tibet, peaceful Vajrapani

9th-10th century, Tibet, probably Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Rossi & Rossi.

We have seen at least one example of Vajrapani holding a vajra sceptre in his right hand and the tall stem of a lotus in the other, instead of a bell. This figure stands with poise despite unusually broad shoulders and big limbs.

He has Pala-style facial features and accessories.

His short dhoti is richly incised and held in place with a belt decorated with a raining jewel pendant.

12th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This Vajrapani holds a vajra sceptre before his heart and a bell (ghanta) at hip level. He has a knee-length dhoti decorated with an incised lotus pattern  and is adorned with princely jewellery including floral earrings and a necklace with a heart-shaped bead in the middle.

There is an effigy of Akshobhya in his headdress.

There is no gilding at the back of the statue, which probably had a mandorla fastened to it.

12th-13th century (or 18th century?), Tibet, Vajrapani, copper alloy with silver and copper inlay, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (USA).

There is a debate as to whether this work actually dates from the 12th-13th century  or whether it is a Pala revival sculpture. The fact is that the sharpness of the petals on the pedestal and the chiselled effect of his plaited hair and of the flowers he holds are not typical of early Tibetan works, and his accessories are a curious mixture of styles and periods.

He is seated with his legs gathered loosely, leaning on his left hand in which he grasps the stem of a lotus. he holds a vajra sceptre horizontally in his right hand.

Tibet, Amitayus – bodhisattva appearance (11)

11th century, Tibet, Amitayus, copper alloy, private collection, Bonhams.

Amitayus is an aspect of Amitabha usually depicted with a bodhisattva appearance.

13th century, Tibet, gilt metal with stone inlay, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

His distinctive attribute is a long-life vase held in both hands.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Amitayus, (labelled Amitabha), at Kangmar, Shigatse (Tibet), photo from the Huntington Archive.

This richly adorned figure sits on a throne supported by a yaksha and two peacocks (Amitabha’s mount).

18th century, Tibet, Amitayus, (parcel) gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Arman Antiques.

The only buddha with a bodhisattva appearance who holds both hands in the meditation gesture is Amitayus. The parcel gilding and the celestial scarf flowing straight upward like the ribbons of the crown correspond to the Tibeto-Chinese style.

18th century, Tibet, Amitayus, parcel gilt metal and silver inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

For the sake of comparison, this Sino-Tibetan style work (made by a Chinese artist for a Tibetan patron) portrays Amitayus with a double chignon topped with a jewel, and an ample lower garment gathered loosely over his legs and most of the pedestal, both of which are also gilt.

18th century, Tibet, Amitayus, copper repoussé, silver and gold inlay, detachable ornaments, private collection, photo by Mossgreen.

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 (4)

16th century, Tibet, Hevajra, gilt copper alloy, photo from the Werner Forman Archive.

This unusual work depicts Hevajra with three heads, eight arms, two legs, in embrace with Nairatmya, who has one head and two arms. He holds a vajra sceptre and a bell in his main hands (across her back), a bow and an arrow, the hide of an elephant (only the front feet visible) and another two attributes in the other hands.

Circa 17th century, Tibet, Hevajra, gilt copper alloy with pigment, at the Indian Museum of Kolkata (India).

Most Tibetan metal sculptures depict him with eight heads, 16 hands, 4 legs, standing in embrace with the consort.

17th century, Tibet, Hevajra, gilt copper alloy, at the British Museum

17th century, Tibet, Hevajra, gilt copper alloy, at the British Museum.

He holds skull cups filled with small figures representing deities and animals (see previous post), she has one head and two hands, in which she holds a flaying knife and a skull cup. There is a variant, in which he holds ritual implements instead of skull cups.

18th century, same as before, photo from the Forman Werner Archive.

The heads are usually arranged in a circle of seven (4 at the back, 3 at the front) plus one on top, all of them with three eyes and a skull crown.

Undated, Tibet, Hevajra, private collection, photo by Holly Auctions.

The two deities stand on Black Bhairava (ego) and red Kalaratri (ignorance).

Undated, Tibet, Hevajra, at the Palace Museum in Beijing, published on Himalayan Art Resources.


Tibet, unidentified wrathful deities (2)

16th century, Tibet, unidentified, gilt copper alloy and stone inlay, private collection, photo by Nagel.

This character, possibly an attendant, has a semi-wrathful aspect and both hands doing a symbolic gesture.

He is adorned with princely jewellery and a five-leaf crown inlaid with stones (many missing).

18th century, Tibet, tantric deity, gilt copper, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (USA).

This very wrathful character riding a horse has one head and four arms. He wears a long coat and boots, a five-skull crown with flowing ribbons, large round earrings, a garland of severed heads. His hair is gathered in a large bun tied with a snake and topped with a flaming finial.

18th century, Tibet, wrathful deity, bronze with stone inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This could be one of several deities and only the missing attributes would give us his identity. He wears the usual wrathful ornaments (snakes and bone accessories, garland of severed heads, tiger skin dhoti, five-skull crown) and has a human hide and the skin of an animal over his back.

Undated (circa 19th century), Tibet, gilt metal, at the American Museum of National History.

Modern sculptures (19th century onwards) are only included in this blog when they are of particular relevance or interest. Out of a set of animal-headed deities, this is the only one with three human heads, each with three eyes. He has six hands, in which he holds various attributes (snake, noose, book, stem?). His red hair is gathered in a tall chignon that seems to be adorned with a multitude of small skulls or heads.


Tibet, Chakrasamvara – 12 hands (6)

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

The main deity in yoga tantra, Chakrasamvara has many forms, with 1 or 4 heads, 2 or 12 hands, but always two legs, usually standing on two victims.

Undated (circa 15th century?), Tibet, Chakrasamvara, copper alloy and pigment, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Following the Luipa tradition, on this sculpture Vajrayogini has both legs around Chakrasamvara’s waist. They are adorned with bone jewellery studded with turquoise, a garland of severed heads for him, a garland of skulls for her. In Tibet, the 12-hand form of this deity normally holds a vajra sceptre and a bell in his main hands and the hide of an elephant in his upper hands. When depicted with his consort he holds a ritual staff, a skull cup, a noose, Brahma’s head (missing here), a drum, an axe, a knife and a vajra on a stick (or a trident) in the other hands. The consort holds a flaying knife and a skull cup.

Undated (15th or 16th century?), Tibet, Chakrasamvara, gilt copper alloy and pigments, at a mountain sanctuary, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

The two victims are Kalaratri and Bhairava (ego and ignorance).

17th-18th century, Tibet, Chakrasamvara, bronze, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

A distinctive feature of Chakrasamvara is the visvajra and a crescent moon in his headdress.

18th century, Tibet, Chakrasamvara, gilt copper alloy, at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City (USA).