Swat Valley, buddhas

6th-7th century, Swat Valley, Shakyamuni (labelled ‘Vairocana’), bronze with silver-inlaid eyes, private collection, photo on  Hardt  .

Shakyamuni in his crowned buddha form, his robe covering both shoulders, seated on a double-lotus base with a back plate featuring two attendants with halo, the nimbus behind his head shaped like a solar wheel topped with a stupa and streamers. This type of back plate (common to Kashmir and the Swat Valley) usually  goes with a throne supported by lions or elephants.

7th-8th century, Swat Valley, Shakyamuni, copper (or copper alloy?), is or was at a monastery in Ladakh, photo on academia.edu , article by Chiara Bellini.

Swat Valley metal sculptures of Shakyamuni often depict him with both shoulders covered and holding a piece of his garment with his left arm at a sharp angle, which is not the case here. He has Kashmiri-style facial features with silver-inlaid eyes, flames coming out of his chignon, and he sits on a cushion with tassels at each corner, atop a lion throne covered with a cloth decorated with roundels. We will note that the lions are larger than the throne and that their head is not below the seat. (Compare with the Gilgit buddha at the Met).

8th-9th century, Northwest India, Shakyamuni, brass, at the National Palace Museum  (Taiwan).

Kashmir, various buddhas (3)

8th century, Kashmir, Buddha with Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya, chlorite, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s , Arts d’Asie 2012.

The historical buddha, preaching, is flanked by Maitreya to his right, holding a water pot in his left hand, and Avalokiteshvara to his left, holding a long-stemmed lotus, both bodhisattvas standing on a small lotus stemming from the main stalk supporting Shakyamuni’s cushion. Each character has a nimbus with a beaded edge.

9th-10th century, Kashmir or Central Asia, Vairocana and Eight Bodhisattvas, wood with traces of polychromy, at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City (USA) (which labels it ‘Chinese, Tang Dynasty’), photo here for Buddhist Art of Kashmir and its legacies at The Rubin Museum of Art.

A portable shrine with Vairocana surrounded by bodhisattvas, two apsaras holding a canopy above his head, a kneeling monk below his throne, wrathful and peaceful characters on the side panels.

Circa 11th century, Kashmir or Kashmir school in Western Tibet, bronze with stone inlay, is or was at Cherné Monastery, photo by  Dr Chiara Bellini  .

A Kashmiri-style buddha with unusual features, such as the broad face with a stone-inlaid urna, the semi-closed eyes without silver inlay, the lacy edge of his robe covering his right shoulder.

Circa 11th century, Kashmir, Bhaisajyaguru, copper with silver eyes, is or was at the Triksé monastery in Ladakh, photo by Chiara Bellini as before.

The main buddha of medicine displays an arura fruit in the palm of his right hand while the other is cupped to support a bowl or a medicine jar, now lost. This sculpture has similarities with various works seen before and attributed to Ladakh: the facial features, especially the thin unibrow with no urna above, the long strip of cloth with pointed edges over the left shoulder and down to the breast, the piece of robe covering the right shoulder, the hem incised with a rice grain pattern,  the shape of the stepped throne and the position of the lions that support it. Outside Nepal, the use of pure copper is unusual.

Circa 11th century, Kashmir, Shakyamuni, copper, at the museum of Triksé monastery in Ladakh, photo by Chiara Bellini as above.

Pala India, Shakyamuni (4)

9th-10th c., Northeast India, Shakyamuni, brass, is or was at the Lima Lakhang in Lhasa (Tibet), published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

The historical buddha is seated on a Nalanda-style double-lotus atop a throne covered with a cloth and decorated with viyalas and stupas, topped with a parasol. The nimbus behind the buddha’s head is embossed with a bodhi tree, under which he gained enlightenment.

10th-11th century, Northeast India, Shakyamuni, bronze, private collection, photo by Millon.

A Kurkihar-style buddha, standing, holding a piece of his garment in his left hand and showing the palm of his right hand in a gesture of supreme generosity. He is adorned with a tripartite crown, a necklace and earrings.

11th century, Northeast India, Kurkihar, Shakyamuni, bronze, photo on Artkhade .

Crowned and seated, his right hand calling Earth to witness his enlightenment.

11th-12th century, India (labelled ‘Pala’), Shakyamuni, bronze, private collection, photo on Sanjay Kapoor Inc.    

We have come across a few similar brass sculptures with silver-inlaid eyes of the historical buddha seated on a lotus base. The above has a small vajra sceptre before him. The hem of his sanghati is decorated with a chased geometrical pattern.

11th-12th century, Northeast India, Shakyamuni at Bodhgaya, brass with silver and copper inlay, photo by Björn Arvidsson for the Fondation Alain Bordier in Gruyère (Switzerland).

Shakyamuni is seated on an embroidered cushion with Kirtimukha at the front, atop a throne supported by two erect snow lions, the goddess of Earth, a male figure, two elephants and a central figure seated at ease on the back of an animal. 

See also the page “Bodh Gaya-type seated buddhas” in the left-hand margin of this blog.

Tibet, Shakyamuni – unusual works (9)

11th century, Western Tibet, Guge kingdom, Shakyamuni, brass, private collection, after G. Tucci in Tibet, Land of Snows, London 1967, ill. p 177.

An early and powerful image of the historical buddha with Pala-style facial features, his urna slightly off centre above the unibrow, a large lotus bud finial on his chingon, his tight-fitting robe decorated with a zig-zag incision along the hem, the punched navel and the straight waist of his lower garment showing through the thin fabric, two layers of cloth gathered in thick folds below his ankles.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze with silver inlay, private collection, photo by Nagel, sale 736 China 4.

A dark bronze figure with silver-inlaid eyes and a very thick unibrow, no urna, no nipples (as is often the case on early Tibetan works), seated on an unusual lotus base with a row of beading between the two lotuses and more beading at the top and at the bottom. The small piece of cloth over his left shoulder forms a geometrical shape with a pointed end. We will note the small feet and the thick hands with three fingers almost the same length.

17th-18th century (or earlier?), Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze (brass with silver-inlaid or painted eyes?), private collection, photo isabelle Bresset on artcurial

Seated on a double-lotus base with small plump petals associated with the (circa) 12th century, his pile of thick hair curls topped with a double lotus bud finial, no nipples visible, this buddha with delicate hands wears an inner and an outer robe with a thick hem, and a lower garment with an embroidered border. A raised urna is placed at the centre of his thin unibrow.

17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, ivory with traces of gilding, private collection, photo on Beaussant-Lefèvre

A rare ivory sculpture of the historical buddha seated on a squarish lotus base, his right foot in an unnatural position, a long piece of fabric going over his left shoulder and down his chest.

17th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt copper alloy, separate base, private collection, photo by Koller.

Instead of a plain or patched robe, this buddha with large limbs wears a garment made of long strips of fabric sewn together.

18th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, steatite with red and black lacquer, private collection, photo on Drouot .

A rare stone sculpture of a buddha with a cloak knotted at the front and covering both shoulders.

Tibet, crowned buddha (6)

14th-15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, brass, private collection, photo on Millon .

Unlike buddhas with a bodhisattva appearance, the crowned historical buddha wears a sanghati and either no jewellery (especially in Tibet) or just some earrings and sometimes a necklace. The above has a five-leaf crown with three jewels at the front and his low chignon is topped with a rather disproportionate lotus bud finial. We will note the sharp unibrow and the large raised urna on his forehead.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, gilt bronze (copper alloy), property from the estate of Brook Astor, photo on Sotheby’s .

This buddha with broad limbs and harmonious proportions was very likely cast by a Newari artist. His thick snail-like curls are topped with a minute lotus bud finial.

15th century, Tibet, crowned buddha, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay, private collection, photo on Bonhams .

A rare and curious case of a crown with six leaves, each with an effigy of a buddha. Since the standard crown represents the five wisdom buddhas, we may assume that the sixth character is Shakyamuni himself.

From left to right the first buddha does the gesture of supreme generosity with his right hand, the second ‘turns the wheel of dharma‘ with both hands, the third seems to have both hands cupped but on close inspection he probably touches the ground with his right hand, which could correspond to Ratnasambhava, Vairocana and Akshobhya.

The fourth buddha also does the dharmacakra mudra, the fifth has both hands in the meditation gesture, the sixth  does the fear-allaying gesture, which could correspond to Shakyamuni preaching, Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi.

16th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni, bronze, private collection, photo on   Drouot

18th century, Tibet, Shakyamuni (labelled ‘Amitabha’), copper repoussé with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo by Gros & Delettrez.

Mongolia, Shakyamuni (5)

18th century, Mongolia, Buddha, gilt bronze (with cold gold and pigments), school of Zanabazar, private collection, photo on GG-ART

The historical buddha (identified by dharma wheels on the sole of his feet?) holding an alms bowl, seated on a single-lotus base with four layers of broad petals overlapping and stamens clearly showing at the top. We will note the large border with an incised motif on his garment, typical of the Zanabazar style.

18th century, Mongolia, Buddha, gilt bronze, school of Zanabazar, private collection, photo on gg-art as above.

The tall lotus base with a stepped plinth and two lotuses facing each other was very popular with followers of Zanabazar during the 18th century.

18th century, Mongolia, Buddha, gilt bronze, school of Zanabazar, private collection, photo on gg-art as above.

Shakyamuni calling Earth to witness his enlightenment, his left hand held in the gesture of meditation, seated on an unusual lotus base with thick beading at the top and at the bottom, two rows of short plum petals facing each other, a broad frieze with a geometrical motif.

18th century, Mongolia, Buddha, gilt bronze, school of Zanabazar, private collection, photo on GG-ART  

Yet another kind of seat typical of the Zanabazar style, consisting in a round lotus with broad petals (always upwards and with a row of clearly visible stamens at the top), in this case with curled tips and an incised edge, supported by a narrow plinth. 

18th century, Mongolia, Buddha, gilt bronze, school of Zanabazar, private collection, photo by Nagel, sale 105 China 1.

The large lotus print on the border of this buddha’s garment is repeated on the plinth.

18th century, Mongolia, Buddha, gilt bronze with cold gold, school of Zanabazar, private collection, photo by Galerie Zacke.

On occasions the cloth folded like a swallow tail over the buddha’s left shoulder is much longer on one side and comes very low down across the chest. We will note the Tibetan-style square facial features, the exaggeratedly broad shoulders, and the plinth with a stippled geometrical pattern plus a chased scrolling vine motif.

Nepal, seated buddhas (3)

11th century, Nepal, Amitayus, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Amitayus is seated on a brocaded cushion atop a lion throne decorated with brass-inlaid half moons. He is adorned with a tripartite foliate crown with wavy ribbons, large floral earrings and matching armlets, a sash decorated with incisions and tightly pulled across his thin waist, a necklace with three claw-like pendants (associated with Manjushri but not exclusive to him), and a calf-length dhoti with a chased geometrical pattern, all very similar to a 10th-11th century Nepalese Amitayus seen previously.

14th century, Nepal, Amitayus, gilt bronze with stone inlay, private collection, photo on AJ Speelman .Malla-period metal sculptures are normally gilt and the accessories are decorated with stone cabochons.  On early works a multitude of tiny gems was used to decorate crowns, belts, jewellery, and even the extremities of scarves and the folds of the dhoti that fan out over the base.

16th-17th century, Nepal, Amitayus, gilt bronze with turquoise inlay, private collection , photo Rémy Lefur et Associés.

On this late-Malla statue fewer and larger stones have been used, the buddha’s hair and his vase of longevity are topped with a lotus supporting a round jewel.

Circa 7th century, Nepal, Shakyamuni, copper with gilding, private collection, photo by Ulrich von Schroeder in an article by David Weldon on  jstor 

A rare Licchavi image of the historical buddha with a small almond-shaped halo decorated with a row of flames curling inward, a row of beading and a star-shaped central structure. The seam of his transparent robe is barely visible across his chest.

13th century, Nepal, Gautama, gilt copper, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

During the Malla period the cloth gathered under the buddha’s ankles is often carefully pleated in a scallop shape. The low hairline going straight across the forehead and the small conical chignon are typical of the place and period. His outer garment covers the left arm completely and a tiny piece is folded like a fishtail over his left shoulder.

13th-14th century, Nepal, Shakyamuni, gilt copper, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Circa 1600, Nepal, Shakyamuni, painted clay, Patan (Nepal), photo by Ulrich von Schroeder in Nepalese Stone Sculptures, Volume 2.

17th century, Nepal, Vajrasattva, gilt copper alloy with turquoise inlay, at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum in Mumbai (India), photo on Photodharma

Vajrasattva is one of the few buddhas who may be seated with a leg pendent. When he holds the vajra sceptre (missing here) upright in his right hand the vajra bell in his left hand is usually upside-down, as above. His five-leaf crown symbolises the five wisdom buddhas, the half-vajra finial indicates enlightenment.