Bhutan, a few deities

17th century, Bhutan, Maitreya, painted clay, photo by Françoise Pommaret, on Himayalan Art Resources.

Maitreya, in his buddha appearance, is seated with both legs pendant, his hands doing the “turning the wheel of dharma” gesture especially associated with him, his shoulders covered with a shawl.

17th century, Bhutan,  Avalokiteshvara, painted clay, at the Semthoka Dzong in Bhutan.

Always standing, the eleven-head and a thousand-hand form of Avalokiteshvara is represented with a wheel of arms radiating from the body and a stack heads arranged in three tiers of three, plus Mahakala’s angry face and Amitabha’s head at the very top.

18th century, Bhutan, Tara, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with stone inlay, photo by Auction FR.

Green Tara, seated with a leg pendant, the foot resting on a lotus, does the gesture of supreme generosity with her right hand and holds the stem of a large lotus with the other. She wears a long lower garment with soft horizontal pleats and a shawl or scarf forming a loop over her left arm and under the right one. The large overlapping scalloped leaves on the double lotus base are typical of Bhutan.

18th century, Bhutan, Vajrasattva, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with cold gold, photo by Françoise Pommaret, on Himalayan Art Resources.

18th century, Bhutan or Tibet, Manjushri, copper (alloy), private collection, photo by Catawiki auction.


Bhutan, a few lamas (2)

17th century, Bhutan, Milarepa, painted clay, photo by Françoise Pommaret.

The Tibetan teacher, poet and saint is identified by his distinctive ‘listening to the echoes of nature’ gesture with the right hand. The begging bowl that goes with it appears to be missing from his left hand.

Possibly 18th century, Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal Rinpoche, copper alloy, at the Asiatic Society in Kolkota (India).

This large work (1m80 high) depicts the founder of the Bhutanese state, Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651) coiffed with an impressive Drukpa Kagyu hat (he was born into a Tibetan family who ruled the Drukpa Kagyupa order), his abundant facial hair painted black, the left hand calling Earth to witness, the other in the meditation gesture.

17th-18th century, Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, gilt bronze (copper alloy), photo by Chiswick auctions.

We see him here as an older man.

18th-19th century, Bhutan, Karmapa, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

Unlike their Tibetan equivalent, most of the Bhutanese sculptures of lamas depict them with facial hair.

Undated, Bhutan, Kagyu Drukpa lama, painted wood, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Bhutan, Padmasambhava (3)

Circa 1800, Bhutan, Padmasambhava, bronze (brass) with silver and copper inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, is seated on a cushion on a Bhutanese-style lotus supported by  an open work base with a lotus design and an incised rim. There is a crescent moon and sun symbol at the front of his lotus cap, the feather finial is broken. His eyes are inlaid with silver. He wears fine silk garments worn the Chinese way while his facial features and the use of brass with silver, copper and stone inlay are typically Tibetan. He holds a vajra sceptre pointing towards his heart and a skull cup filled with nectar.


Mongolia, wrathful females

17th century, Mongolia, Magzor Gyalmo, bronze (brass), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The crescent moon in her headdress and the sun disc over her navel identify this deity as Magzor Gyalmo, the wrathful aspect of Sarasvati, whose appearance is similar to that of Palden Lhamo but she only has two hands. She sits sideways on a khiang or a mule, using her son’s hide as a saddle and wears a skull crown, a garland of severed heads, a tiger skin loin cloth, bone and snake ornaments. In her right hand she wields a (missing) vajra-tipped staff and in the other hand she holds a skull cup filled with magic substances or  blood and a mustard seed.

18th century, Mongolia, Magzor Gyalmo (labelled Lhamo), parcel-gilt brass (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Hanhai auction.

The same distinctive features and the vajra-tipped staff make this figure likely to be Magzor Gyalmo, riding across a sea of blood.

18th century, Mongolia, Palden Lhamo, at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Art

This image was published in a previous post and thought to possibly depict Magzor Gyalmo because of the attributes in her two hands, and because Palden Lhamo has four hands. However, she is normally accompanied by Makaravaktra, who leads her mule, and Simhavaktra who walks behind, and she doesn’t have a crescent moon in her headdress or a sun disc on her navel. The above seems to be, therefore, a mixture of the two.

18th century, Mongolia, Makaravaktra (labelled Makaramukha), gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Unlike the dakini  Makaramukha, who wears a skull crown and stands on one foot, Makaravaktra, the makara-faced attendant to Palden Lhamo, stands on both feet and doesn’t wear a skull crown. Her right arm is raised to hold the bridle of Palden Lhamo’s mount, the left hand is held against her heart.

19th century, Mongolia, Rishamukha, silver with turquoise and coral inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

A late but rare and well-crafted sculpture of this bear-headed dakini, blending Tibetan features such as the use of silver with turquoise and coral inlay with Chinese-style accessories, like the celestial scarf with very sharp bends and the dharma wheel breast plate with pendants.

Mongolia, wrathful forms (4)

18th century, Mongolia, Mahakala, gilt copper alloy and pigments, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Mahakala, in his shadbhuja form (6 arms) with one head and two legs, holds a lasso, a trident and a skull cup in his left hands, a drum, a rosary of skulls and a flaying knife in the right ones. He is adorned with a five-skull crown, snakes worn as jewellery, a garland of severed heads, a tiger skin loin cloth knotted at the front and another animal skin over his shoulders. The large mass of hair gathered in a mitre-like shape, the serpentine ends of the scarf, the pointed toes, are all reminiscent of the late Sino-Tibetan style.

18th-19th century, Mongolia, labelled Monbuputra, copper alloy with traces of gilding, private collection, photo by Nagel.

The body aspect of Pehar always has one head, two hands, two legs and rides a lion but he always extends his arms out. Pehar himself may have a similar aspect but the right hand would hold a stick and the left hand would sustain a skull cup filled with blood. This rare work may depict Dorje Legpa in his one-head two-hand form. He normally holds a vajra sceptre in his right hand and the heart of an enemy close to his mouth in the other, and has a half vajra finial on top of his helmet, which would correspond to the above figure.

18th century, Mongolia or Tibeto-Chinese, Kshetrapala, gilt copper alloy and pigments, (stones missing), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

There are very few sculptures of this personage and all of them seem to be late works. A retinue figure in some shadbhuja Mahakala sets, he mounts a bear and wields a vajra sceptre or a flaying knife in the right hand while holding a skull cup in the other.

This one wears the flayed skin of a human over his back, a large parcel-gilt skull adorns his flaming hair and his accessories include a dharma wheel plate (worn rather low down).

18th century, Mongolia, Dolonor district, Kshetrapala, gilt brass, private collection, photo by Hanhai auction.

The same retinue figure with a similar iconography, his head and flaming hair tilted to the left  – as is often the case with late Mongolian sculptures of wrathful deities. His left leg is folded at an awkward angle and reveals part of his tiger skin loin cloth.

Tibet, Vajrabhairava – alone (4)

Often called Yamantaka, Vajrabhairava is a specific form of Yamantaka (the other two are Rakta Yamari and Krishna Yamari seen in recent posts).

Undated, Tibet, Vajrabhairava, copper alloy, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA).The ekavira (solitary) form of Vajrabhairava with a row of seven angry heads and a large buffalo head at the centre, topped with another angry head and Manjushri’s, with 34 hands and 16 legs, adorned with the usual wrathful ornaments, holding a flaying knife and a skull cup in his main hands before his heart.

17th century, Tibet, gilt copper alloy and copper repoussé stand, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

He stands with the right legs bent and the left one stretched, trampling on deities and animals.

On this item, cold gold has been applied to the face and orange pigment has been used to dye the hair, eyebrows, beard and moustache, giving him a very wrathful appearance.

Undated, Tibet?, Vajrabhairava, stone, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Rarely seen in sculpture, the one-head, two-hand and two-leg form of Vajrabhairava holds a flaying knife and a skull cup, wears a five-skull crown, a garland of severed heads and the hide of an elephant across his back. He may stand on a prostrate bull, as above. The addition of Manjushri’s head on top of his is unusual.

Undated, Tibet, Vajrabhairava, black stone, private collection, photo on Himalayan Art Resources.

Alternatively, the heads are stacked in three groups of three, with the buffalo head at the  bottom and Manjushri’s at the top. The artist has used cold gold to highlight the wrathful ornaments and the attributes held by the deity.

Tibet, Krishna Yamari

11th-12th century, Tibet, Krishna Yamari, bronze (copper alloy) with paint and turquoise, at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

Krishna Yamari, with a blue-black body on paintings, may have 1 head and 2 or 4 hands, 3 heads and 2, 4, or 6 hands, 4 heads and 4 hands, 6 or 9 heads and 6 hands. According to textual sources, the four-head version has 4 legs. We saw a figure with 4 heads thought to be Krishna Yamari who only had two legs and the fourth head was Manjushri’s. Here, the heads all have the orange hair and third eye associated with wrathful deities. He holds a sword in the upper left hand and a skull cup in the lower right one, the other attributes are probably incomplete.

14th century, Sino-Tibetan, Krishna Yamari, gilt copper alloy with stones and pigment, private collection, photo by Pundoles.

One of the three-head and six-hand form of Black Yamari tramples two demons lying on the back of a prostrated male buffalo and holds a skull cup, a wheel and a lotus flower or bud in his right hand, a flaying knife, a sword and a vajra in the others (sometimes in a different order). This form may be alone (India) or accompanied by his consort (Sakya tradition).

17th-18th century, Tibet, Krishna Yamari, bronze with gilding and paint, at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (Russia).

This rare form of Yamari has six heads, six arms and six legs, two of them folded in the vajra position, the other four in the alidha pose typical of wrathful deities. The main hands are crossed over the heart and hold a vajra sceptre and a bell. The other implements appear to be a vajra-hammer, a sword, another vajra or vajra-tipped attribute and possibly a lasso.