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.

Gandhara, two singular sculptures

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni and Maitreya, schist, at the  NSW Art Gallery in Sydney (Australia).

Only 51 cm tall, this remarkable sculpture depicts the historical buddha back to back with the future buddha (a bit like the two-headed Janus of the Roman mythology who looks at the past and at the future at the same time).

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni, schist, as above.

Shakyamuni has soft wavy hair gathered in a bun and a pleated robe that covers both shoulders and ends in a straight line above thick ankles and squarish feet typical of early works.

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, Maitreya,  schist, same as above.

Maitreya is shown in his bodhisattva appearance, bedecked with the full range of necklaces, plain earrings, bracelets, wearing sandals and holding a ritual pot of water by its long neck.

4th century, Gandhara, Avalokiteshvara, schist, private collection, in Reflections on the Gandhara Bodhisattva Images, Pratapaditya Pal, on jstor

Instead of the usual fan-shaped ornament with a tenon at the front of his headdress, this bodhisattva has the effigy of a buddha with a halo and two devotees in monastic attire.

Dr Pal points out that although seated with both hands in the gesture of meditation, this buddha is not necessarily Amitabha, whom we normally associate with Avalokiteshvara. He also draws the attention to the sandalled feet often seen in Gandharan imagery and to the ornament worn across the chest. The rectangular “beads” on the string are thought to be boxes containing charms for protection.

Jammu and Kashmir, Shakyamuni (2)

Circa 6th century, Kashmir, Shakyamuni, stone, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The treatment of the facial features, pose and draping suggest this sculpture of the buddha holding a large bowl was made in Jammu and Kashmir (see the Met collection). He wears a garland of flowers and a large open lotus decorates his halo.

8th century, Kashmir, Shakyamuni, ivory, at the Cleveland Museum of Art (USA).

This fragment, probably from a portable shrine, is obviously related to a 7th century ivory set  attributed to Jammu Kashmir on the Huntington Archive .

8th century, Kashmir, attendants, ivory, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (USA).

The same goes for this fragment.

10th century, Jammu and Kashmir (labelled ‘Swat Valley’), bronze, private collection, photo on  Hardt  Compare with a circa 9th century crowned buddha at the Met , same tall crown with crescent moon and flower design, same flowing ribbons, same type of jewellery, same backplate. On this example the kneeling attendant has a yaksha appearance, with a fan-shaped hair bunch and snake adornments; he holds a long garland or snake.


Tibet, crowned buddha (5)

9th century (or later?), Kashmir (Kashmir school in Western Tibet?), Shakyamuni, bronze, private collection, photo on  Hardt .

A rare sculpture of a standing crowned buddha, almost identical to a 12th century sculpture from Western Tibet, published by Christie’s and seen in a previous post. He stands on a Kashmiri-style stepped pedestal decorated with a singular row of lotus petals and an incised motif at the front. Other features that differ from Kashmiri standards are the large wide-open eyes, the shape of the rosettes on each side of the crown and the hem, with large beading and jewel pendants instead of tassels, on the three-pointed neckline of his garment.