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, peaceful Vajrapani – standing (5)

Labelled 12th-14th century, Western Himalayas (circa 11th century, Western Tibet or Ladakh?), Vajrapani, bronze (copper alloy) at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart, published on wikipedia commons.

This Guge-style sculpture with an athletic body, marked knee caps, a lobed abdomen and a cruciform navel, is very similar to a 1oth-11th century Avalokiteshvara attributed to Western Tibet or Ladakh by the Musée Guimet in Paris and published in a previous post (see below). Vajrapani holds an upright vajra in his right hand and may have had a bell in the other. He is adorned with a long foliate garland, beaded jewellery, sacred thread and matching belt, large floral earrings and a sash worn tightly across the chest. Long strands of hair dyed with blue pigment fall over his shoulders. His transparent dhoti, shorter on one side and with an incised hem, forms a sharp point at the front that almost reaches the pedestal. The eyes are inlaid with silver in the Kashmiri fashion.

10th-11th century, Western Tibet or ancient Tibetan kingdom of Ladakh, Avalokiteshvara, brass with silver inlay, at Musée Guimet (Paris)

Tibet, peaceful Vajrapani – standing (4)

11rh-12th century, Western Tibet, Vajrapani, bronze (copper alloy) with silver-inlaid eyes, private collection, photo by Koller.

Possibly part of a set, this solid-cast figure has the bonhomie of many 11th and 12th century West Tibetan sculptures vaguely inspired by the Indian Pala style. The hair is gathered in a three-tier chignon topped with a lotus bud finial, his low tiara with a single leaf panel is fastened with ribbons forming large bows on each side of the head. He holds an upright vajra in his right hand and a vajra-handled bell in the other at hip level. His knee-length garment, knotted at the back, is decorated with a stippled motif and thick beading on the hem.

12th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, copper alloy with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo by Capriaquar on http://www.asianart.com.

Occasionally, this bodhisattva holds the stem of a lotus which supports the attribute and does a symbolic gesture with the other hand.

17th century, Tibet, Vajrapani, by Chöying Dorje, copper with cold gold and pigments, is or was at Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

The tenth karmapa portrayed, in his own particular style, a dishevelled Vajrapani standing on  twisted nagas (snakes) over a lotus on a rocky formation supported by two crouching figures.

Tibet, Manjushri triads

12th century, (West?) Tibet, Tibetan brass tradition, Vajrasattva, Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, brass with cold gold and pigments, is or was at the potala, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

This group of  deities on lotuses is supported by four yakshas accompanied by a snow lion. Instead of being pot-bellied, naked and crouching the yakshas are depicted like atlantes and wear short dhotis. (For more information on yakshas see an article on the Ashmolean Museum website at http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/object/EA1995.95).

Manjushri, at the centre, brandishes his sword to cut through ignorance and holds the stem of an open lotus with a manuscript balancing on it.

To his left, Avalokiteshvara does the gesture of supreme generosity with his right hand and holds the stem of a similar eight-petal lotus, the skin of an antelope covers his left shoulder.

Vajrasattva holds a thunderbolt sceptre (vajra) and a bell (ghanta) together with the stem of a blue lotus.

12th century, Western Tibet, Vajrapani, Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara, bronze (brass), private collection, photo by Lempertz.

A similar triad, with the base missing. Manjushri’s book is supported by a blue lotus, Avalokiteshvara holds the neck of a ritual water pot in his right hand. Vajrapani’s main attribute is missing from his right hand.

On both sets, the blade of Manjushri’s sword is decorated with a geometrical pattern typical of sculptures produced in the Ngari area of Western Tibet around the 12th century.

11th-12th century, Tibet, Manjushri, Vajrasattva, Avalokiteshvara, brass, Tibetan brass tradition, is or was at the Lima Lakhang, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

Here Vajrasattva  stands at the centre and Manjushri and Avalokiteshvara are depicted as attendants (smaller size).

NB: when standing, Vajrasattva and Vajrapani may have the same appearance and it is often impossible to know which is which unless an inscription on the base of the sculpture identifies the figure.

Mongolia, wrathful Vajrapani

Undated (17th century circa?), Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

This masterpiece depicts Vajrapani in his one-head and two-hand form, wielding a vajra and doing a gesture to ward off evil with his left hand. He has a tiger skin knotted around his waist and a mitre-like hair arrangement, a floral tiara and matching earrings, some beaded jewellery, a thin celestial scarf with serpentine ends that forms a frame around him. The style of the lotus pedestal is typical of Mongolia.

17th-18th century, Mongolia, Vajrapani, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This one wears a long snake as a sacred thread. He does the gesture to keep evil away with both hands.

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

A different style altogether, with an emphasis on the orange flaming hair and matching eyebrows.

Undated, Mongolia, Vajrapani, copper alloy, same as before.

Same type of hair, but topped with a vajra finial and offset by a five-skull crown with foliate panels. The left hand holds a lasso while doing the same gesture as before.


Swat Valley, various bodhisattvas (2)

Undated, Pakistan, Swat Valley style, Vajrapani, bronze, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Vajrapani holds a thunderbolt sceptre horizontally away from his chest while his left hand rests against his hip. He displays a fan-shape hair bunch typical of the area now known as Pakistan but worn looser, two different earrings and plain jewellery.

His long dhoti decorated with geometrical incisions, covering the navel and fastened at the back differs from Swat Valley standards, as do the body proportions (less harmonious here). The use of a dark alloy, the ‘strangled’ lotus base without a plinth and the shape of the face correspond to the Swat Valley style.

Undated (9th or 10th century?), Swat Valley, bodhisattva, bronze, private collection, same as before.

Seated on a cushion over rocky formation, this bodhisattva holds a water pot in his left hand and a non-identified object in the other. In the absence of a stupa in his headdress it is impossible to know whether this is Maitreya or Avalokiteshvara.

Unless the object in question is a rosary…

Western Himalayas, various bodhisattvas

13th century, Western Himalayas, Vajrapani, brass, is or was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Standing on a stepped plinth derived from a Kashmiri design, Vajrapani holds a thunderbolt sceptre horizontally in his right hand, the other is placed on his hip. He wears a dhoti shorter on one side and has large knee caps as in Western Tibet. His eyes are slit horizontally in the style of Himachal Pradesh. The nimbus is incised with flames, the rest of the back plate is plain.

13th-14th century, Western Himalayas, Vajrapani, brass, private collection, on Himalayan Art Resources.

Another mixed-style Vajrapani, with a coiffure very similar to that of an Himachal Pradesh Avalokiteshvara seen in a previous post. He wears a long garland and a short dhoti decorated with a stippled motif between stripes. The  flaming arch is topped with a finial.

12th century circa, Western Himalayas, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The character at the centre of this Pala-style triad is Manjushri, easy to identify through his sword and his blue lotus topped with a manuscript (the Prajnaparamita sutra). His attendants (smaller in size) are Vajrapani, who holds an upright vajra in his right hand and has his left hand against his hip, and, on the other side, Avalokiteshvara in his padmapani form, who holds a lotus as usual but also a water pot in the Gandharan fashion.

Undated, Kashmir or Western Himalayas, Avalokiteshvara, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.