Nepal, early Malla buddhas – seated (5)

Circa 13th century, Nepal, Shakyamuni, gilt copper, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

The historical buddha, seated on a cushion and wearing a robe that covers both shoulders, holds a begging bowl in his hands cupped in the gesture of meditation.

He has a thin oval face with a generous lower lip, semi-closed almond-shaped eyes, thick hair curls, no visible urna on his forehead, a low ushnisha topped with a lotus bud finial.

13th-14th century, Nepal, copper, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

A similar image, with a prominent urna, the hem of his inner garment showing below the hem of his sanghati.

13th century, Nepal, Shakyamuni, copper with traces of gilding, private collection, photo published on Himalayan Art Resources.

The transparent robe of this buddha reveals the waist of his lower garment forming a peak below a punched navel. The hem of the robe is decorated with four rows of fine beading and the lower part is pleated neatly in a fan shape over the cushion.

14th century, Nepal, Shakyamuni, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

On rare occasions Shakyamuni is depicted with both nipples showing, one of them through the diaphanous sanghati he is wearing, possibly to highlight his human condition.

14th century, Nepal, Shakyamuni, nearly pure copper with traces of gilding, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

The vast majority of early sculptures produced in Nepal were made of copper, to which a layer of gilding was added.

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

The arura fruit in the palm of his right hand identifies this figure as the medicine buddha Bhaisajyaguru, whose only adornments are some large rosettes above his ears.

 

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Mongolia, a few buddhas (2)

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Shakyamuni (labelled Bhaisajyaguru), gilt copper (alloy?), private collection, photo by Kapoor Galleries Inc.

The historical buddha, calling Earth to witness and holding a begging bowl, is seated on a tall double-lotus base typical of  the Zanabazar school. His diaphanous sanghati is decorated with an incised border and worn tightly around the legs, in the Mongolian fashion.

18th century, Mongolia, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Bonhams.

This buddha wears his outer garment loosely over both arms and with the chest bare, the soft folds gathered over his legs in the Chinese fashion. He is seated on a Zanabazar-style lotus base with the lower part narrower than usual.

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Invaluable.

The buddha of medicine holds a medicine jar with a lid in his left hand and the fruit of the arura plant in the other, his robe decorated with an incised pattern, the lower part covering part of the legs and base, the tail end arranged in a scallop shape. We have seen other examples of  swallow-tail folds over the shoulder blending in with the hem across the chest and the inner edge of the forearm. The strip above the rim of the lotus base is engraved with a geometrical pattern.

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

A similar image, with painted facial features and a patched robe with a more elaborate incised floral pattern on the border.

18th century, Mongolia, Vajradhara, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Vajradhara holds a vajra sceptre and a bell in his hands crossed over his heart. The artist has given him Chinese-style accessories such as the five-leaf crown, festooned necklace and large earrings often seen on late Tibetan works but not the shawl that usually goes with them (see next photo), while the broad shoulders, the design of the lotus base and the tight fitted lower garment with a large incised border are typical of Mongolian art.

 

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, Bhaisajyaguru (5)

14th-15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby's.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The medicine buddha holds the stem of an arura fruit (Terminalia Chebula) in his right hand. His left hand, in the meditation gesture, would have held a bowl.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Nagel.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Nagel auctions.

This one holds a small fruit and a medicine jar with a lid.

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His hair is made of very large beading set wide apart. There is a particularly large raised urna on his forehead.

15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This curious buddha with noticeable eyebrows, holds a smooth egg-shaped fruit and a small medicine jar with a lid, the hem of his sanghati and inner robe are decorated with beading and piping.

same as before, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Another type of draping, broad hems decorated with an incised pattern, a turquoise-inlaid urna and elongated earlobes.

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

Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru (4)

14th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, at the Berkeley Art Museum.

14th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, at the Berkeley Art Museum (USA).

With no bowl or arura fruit in his hands, the iconography is similar to that of Ratnasambhava, but the latter is almost always depicted in a bodhisattva form, and some of the fingers are raised as if to hold an object so we assume we are looking at the medicine buddha.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby's.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This is clearly him, holding his attributes, his sanghati draped so as to cover both shoulders while leaving an arm free.

15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, at the Berkeley Art Museum (USA).

15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, at the Berkeley Art Museum (USA).

The above has turquoise-inlaid rosettes and urna, and there is also a turquoise cabochon at the tip of his garment, over his left shoulder.

Undated (18th century circa?), Tibet, copper alloy, at the Stockholm Museum of World Cultures (Sweden).

Undated (18th century circa?), Tibet, copper alloy, at the Världskultur Museerna in Stockholm (Sweden).

On this Pala-revival version, Bhaisajyaguru holds the stem of a plant (presumably an arura) in his right hand and a medicine bowl in the other.

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His hair is arranged in concentric rows of thick curls topped with a chignon and a lotus bud finial.

Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru (3)

14th-15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby's.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Medicine bowl and arura fruit in hand, his chignon topped with a lotus bud finial, Bhaisajyaguru seems to tell us he has a remedy for every ailment.

16th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Nagel auctions.

16th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Nagel auctions.

This is a similar style, with thick beading on the hem of his sanghati.

Same as before, photo by Sotheby's.

Same as before, photo by Sotheby’s.

Here, the robe is draped in the Chinese fashion and has a broad hem decorated with incisions and beading. His medicine pot comes complete with a lid.

18th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper and pigments, at the Museum der Kulturen in Basel (Switzerland).

15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper and pigments, at the Museum der Kulturen in Basel (Switzerland).

A sturdy figure with big limbs, thick hair curls, a large urna and finial, his garments wrapping his body tightly, the hem decorated with an incised pattern, reminiscent of earlier Khasa Malla works.

Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru (2)

15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper and pigments, private collection, photo by Sotheby's.

15th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper and pigments, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Bhaisajyaguru holds a medicine jar in his left hand and a small arura fruit in the other.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Arura (often called ‘myrobalan’, which is a generic term referring to various plants) is used in Tibetan medicine for its healing properties. The above figure holds a particularly large fruit. On most sculptures the fruit looks like a large seed in the palm of his hand.

16th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie's.

16th century, Tibet, Bhaisajyaguru, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

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He normally has a raised urna on his forehead (which is meant to be a lock of hair, not a third eye).

Undated (18th century?), probably Tibeto-Chinese, Bhaisajyaguru, at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

Undated (18th century?), probably Tibeto-Chinese, Bhaisajyaguru, at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (Russia).