• Standing Padmapani

    80 cm (31 in)
    c. 13th century

  • Chagan Sambhar-a
    (skt Sitasamvara)

    Mongolia - School of Zanabazar
    Gilt copper with painted details
    24 cm (9 ½ in)
    late 17th - early 18th century

    Sitasamvara or White Samvara is a benevolent form of the popular tutelary divinity. He is shown here embracing his consort Vajravarahi. They are joined in mystical union, symbolising the merging of wisdom and compassion - the essence of enlightenment. Sitasamvarais seated on a double lotus pedestal, his petite consort sitting in his lap. He holds two jars with the elixir of immortality in his hands; she hold two skull cups. Both deities are beautifully crowned, coiffed and bejewelled. Traces of paint remain on their hair and on his face, highlighting the full lips and titled eyes with eyelids gently curving in a shallow bow shape.

  • Chakrasamvara màndala

    Distemper on cloth
    80 x 73 cm (31½ x 28¾ in)
    c. 1400 AD

  • Vajrasattva Shakti

    Mongolia, School of Zanabazar
    Gilt bronze with painted details
    25 cm (10 in)
    late 17th - early 18th century

  • Standing Padmapani 1

    Gilt bronze
    91.4 cm (36 in)
    13th century

  • Manjusri

    Gilt copper alloy
    40.5 cm (16 in)
    School of Zanabazar, late 17th-early 18th century

    Manjusri is a bodhisattva of transcendent wisdom; the Sanskrit name means ”Gentle Glory” or ”Sweet Splendour”. In Esoteric Buddhism he is also taken as a meditational deity. He is one of the two most important Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism, and is the first Bodhisattva mentioned in the Mahayana scriptures. Manjusri is also known by the fuller Sanskrit name of Manjusrikumarabhuta.

    Manjusri is usually depicted as a male bodhisattva wielding a flaming sword in his right hand, representing the realization of transcendent wisdom which cuts down ignorance and duality. The scripture supported by the lotus held in his left hand is a Prajnaparamita sutra, representing his attainment of ultimate realization from the blossoming of wisdom. Manjusri is often depicted as riding on a blue lion, or sitting on the skin of a lion. This represents the use of wisdom to tame the mind, which is compared to riding or subduing a ferocious lion.

    In this sizeable sculpture, Manjushri is depicted seated in vajraparyankasana on a lotus pedestal, wearing a five-leaf shaped crown, with bracelets on his wrists, a beaded jewel belt and floral bordered skirt. His right hand wields the double-edged sword that cuts through the veil of ignorance and delusion and dissipates the darkness among men, whilst in his left hand he holds the stem of a lotus bud overlaid by the Prajnaparamita Sutra. Slender-bodied with a full, elegant face, he is shown in an extremely naturalistic pose with the movement of his body especially eloquent in the arch of the right arm raising the sword and the sway of his torso.

    Early depictions of Manjushri show the book held in the hand, whereas later it is normally placed on the lotus at his shoulder. It is this reference to the classical art of Nepal and India that defines the inspirational sculptural style of Zanabazar.

    Zanabazar (1635-1723) was one of the most significant Asian artists. He distinguished himself in numerous other domains, such as politics, engineering and literature – showing a similar wide-ranging versatility to the great Renaissance masters such as Leonardo da Vinci. He derived inspiration for his sculptures from the medieval period Nepalese and eastern Indian images that were housed and revered in the Tibetan monasteries that he had seen in a visit to the country. Although his pictorial oeuvre seems to be completely lost, a small number of sculptures, in a characteristic style, are attributed to him. Stylistically, Zanabazar’s sculptures are notable for their exquisite beauty and refinement, presenting a synthesis of ancient aesthetics, modulated by the function of iconography.

    This is a splendid example of the craftsmanship and elegance of works from the School of Zanabazar: finely detailed and with lustrous gilt surfaces, the sculptures are possessed of a serene fluidity, with delicate features yet vibrantly realized bodies. The style pays homage to the Nepalese and Indian tradition, but transformed and revitalized by a great and innovative master.

  • Amogasiddi

    distemper on cloth
    77 x 57 cm (30 ½ x 22 ½ in)
    13th century

  • Ratnasambhava

    distemper on cloth
    77 x 57 cm (30 x 22 ½ in)
    13th century

  • Akshobya

    distemper on cloth
    77 x 57 cm (30 x 22 ½ in)
    13th century

  • Amitabha

    painting on cloth
    77 x 57 cm (30 x 22 ½ in)
    13th century

  • Shakyamuni

    Distemper on cloth
    47 x 32 cm (18½ x 12½ in)
    c. 1050-1100 AD

    A refreshing simplicity defines this early Tibetan painting. The Buddha with attendant bodhisattvas, his past and future manifestations above and the omni-present Tathagatas below appear in a homogeneous composition uncomplicated by architecture or extraneous decorative elements. The painting conveys the essence of Buddhism in the early days of Tibetans’ search for religious instruction in India, the source and birthplace of their faith. Portrayed in adoration of the Buddha are two Tibetan monks who lived this inspired moment in the eleventh century. Dr. Amy Heller has established the eleventh century date of the painting through epigraphic evidence, making it one of the earliest portable thankas from the Himalayas. The inscription on the back states that this very painting was placed within a reliquary stupa on the death of the famous eleventh century Tibetan translator Gos Lotsava. The inscription informs us that entombed with the painting were other precious objects such as an Indian bronze statue, clay images of Buddha and manuscripts including a copy of the Hevajra tantra; it was for the Tibetan translation of this important Indian treatise that Gos Lotsava is notably credited.

    Stylistic comparisons with eleventh century Tibetan wall paintings at the small temple of Yemar corroborate the epigraphic evidence. The murals, now lost but recorded by Profs. Tucci and Maraini in their expeditions of 1937 and 1948, were painted by Tibetan artists in an Indian style and are strikingly similar to this Buddha thanka. The whimsical standing Buddhas at the top of the picture, unconfined by the boundaries of their register, have cranial protuberances set well back on the head, as in the murals and indeed as they are in Pala Indian manuscript illuminations. Long fingers form expressive rounded mudras as at Yemar. Furthermore the various bodhi vriksha trees with their branches forming halos behind the heads of the Buddhas are painted in the Pala style. The seated Buddha at the centre of the picture echoes the Yemar Buddhas with tightly cropped hair and small almost conical ushnisha, the double-arched hairline on the forehead, and the cushion with its expansive scroll design. This rare painting represents the earliest and perhaps the purest phase of Tibetan art, relying on the simplest of formats to communicate profound spirituality.

    1) Cf. Pratapaditya Pal, Art of Nepal, Berkeley - Los Angeles County Museum of Art - University of California Press, Los Angeles - London 1985, p. 60, No. P7, and David Jackson, The Nepalese Legacy in Tibetan Painting, Rubin Museum of Art, New York 2010, p. 101, fig. 6.3.

    2) Cf. Giuseppe Tucci, Indo-Tibetica. IV. Gyantse ed i suoi monasteri, Reale Accademia d'Italia, Roma 1941, part I, p. 137, and part III, figs 44-46 and 51-53, and Tibet, Nagel, Ginevra 1975, pp. 129 and 215, fig. 124, and Erberto Lo Bue, Tibet. Templi scomparsi fotografati da Fosco Maraini, Ananke, Torino 1998, pp. 75-76, 89, pl. 72, 91-93, pls 74-76, and 102-104, pls 86-88.

    3) Cf. Tadeusz Skorupski (ed.), A Catalogue of the sTog Palace Kanjur, The International Institute for Buddhist Studies, Tokyo 1985, p. 248, No. 455, and Goerge Roerich (ed.), The Blue Annals, Motilal Banarsidass, Varanasi - Delhi 1976, p. 732.

    4) Cf. Amy Heller, "Indian Style, Kashmir Style: Aesthetics of Choice in Eleventh- Century Tibet", Orientations, 32/10 (December 2001), pp. 20 and 23, and in Pratapaditya Pal, Himalayas. An Aesthetic Adventure, op. cit., p. 290, where the author suggests that the name “rDar-ma-‘gror-te” (“rDar-ma-‘gror-to” in my own reading — as reported in the inscription, containing several spelling mistakes — may correspond to Dharma Blo-gros.

    5) Cf. Giuseppe Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, Rinsen Book Co., Kyoto 1980, p. 413, as pointed out by Amy Heller.

    6) Cf. Goerge Roerich (ed.), op. cit., pp. 167, 208-209 and 826.

  • Seated Buddha Shakyamuni

    Distemper on cloth
    32 x 25.5 cm (12 ½ x 10 in)
    early 13th century AD

    The Buddha sits in an engaging posture; eyes steadfastly fixed on the viewer and with his hands held in the teaching gesture, dharmachakra mudra. Leogryphs support the upper throne section with two hamsa geese standing on platforms with jewelled chains hanging from their beaks. Branches of the Bodhi tree intriguingly divide a line between deep space surrounding the throne’s rainbow halo and the flower strewn blue background of the picture. A single flower bud encroaches on the upper register in front of another Buddha in dharmachakra mudra. Two standing bodhisattvas often accompany the central deity in a Tibetan painting of this period: here two kneeling figures are in attendance, and more unusually one of the figures is a fierce manifestation. The blue figure appears to be Vajrapani with his vajra suspended in the air before him. It is interesting to note that Vajrapani’s eyes are blood-red but for the pupils, a device used by Indian artists to denote the fearsome complexion of tantric and protector deities both in illuminated manuscripts and in bronze figures with eyes of red copper inlay. Indeed the picture is done with constant reference to Indian traditions, the schema of the picture echoing eastern Indian Pala period stele with a large central figure and accompanying deities, and details such as the crouching animals in the throne recesses. The rampant leogryphs are particularly reminiscent of Pala style. Vajrapani is often seen in this location in thankas of the period, but normally in his benign form as a standing bodhisattva. The kneeling figure to the left of the picture may be Avalokiteshvara, the begging bowl being an attribute of his spiritual progenitor Amitabha. Above the figure is a stupa with a dharmachakra Buddha in its niche, and a golden vessel above Vajrapani has its lid forced open by a burgeoning lotus flower bearing another dharmachakra Buddha. The red kneeling deity in the lower register, probably Hayagriva, is holding an identical golden lotus vessel in his left hand - the guardian, somehow, of its precious contents. Two female attendants, possibly forms of Tara, sit in languorous postures at either side of the Buddha’s throne, the green goddess on the left holding the ankusa or elephant hook and the golden yellow figure holding a flower. The dais is draped with a cloth bearing the triratna, the three jewels of Buddhism. A lit butter lamp and a bowl of jewels are placed either side of the throne as offerings to the Buddha, and a further eleven Buddhas in the upper registers are seated with hands in various, often repeated, mudras.

    The painting is unique in its composition, and while a precise iconographic interpretation of many of its unusual elements remains elusive one may simply marvel at the beauty and originality of this enigmatic masterpiece. The stunning palette is as fresh as when it was painted. Subtle shading is used throughout, giving bulk to the blue Vajrapani, accentuating the curlicues of the lotus petal throne, and subtly pronouncing the features the Buddha’s face. Mischievous animals are playfully depicted, crouching within the recesses of the throne.

    The date of the painting is easier to ascribe than its iconographic detail, with close stylistic similarity to a number of thirteenth century works from the Taklung monastery on which there has been extensive research. Indeed an inscription on the back indicates that the painting was consecrated by Onpo Lama Rinpoche, an abbot of this important monastery during the thirteenth century. Further, the lokapalas in the lower register wearing loose-sleeved shirts beneath their armour and close-fitting caps are similarly attired to circa 1200 AD sculptures in Nethang monastery. A throne cushion behind the Buddha’s back is decorated in the delightful green scrolling pattern that was so popular in thirteenth century Tibetan art, and which is the virtually ubiquitous throne cushion design throughout the Taklung series.

  • Samvara

    distemper on cloth
    42 x 35 cm (16 ½ x 13 ½ in)
    14th century

  • Avalokiteshvara

    China, Yunnan
    Bronze, trace of gilding, cast in the lost wax method
    34.8 cm (17 ¾ in)
    10th century

  • Avalokiteshvara

    Pakistan, Swat Valley
    Bronze inlaid with silver and copper
    16.9 cm (6 ¾ in)
    7th century

    Private collection UK
    sold Christie's London, 27 March 1972, lot 184, illustrated plate XIV, 'property of a gentleman'.
    Private collection, Europe, acquired 1972

  • Shâkyamuni

    Copper alloy with copper inlay and traces of gilding
    48 cm (19 in)
    c. 1300

    Shâkyamuni is portrayed here in the gesture of touching the Earth with his right hand in order to summon her to bear witness to the Enlightenment, namely his vision of the Wheel of Existences, that he achieved at Bodhgayâ, while the left one is still in the attitude of meditation. The Earth-touching gesture symbolizes Shâkyamuni’s victory over Death (Mâra) as well as the dominion of his doctrine over the world. Buddhists extended the same gesture to Akshobhya, the cosmic Buddha of the east.

    This statue was cast by the lost-wax process, following a technique which the Newar artists of the Nepal Valley derived from India and in which they have been particularly skilled. Stylistically this image may be related to the Newar artistic production commissioned by Tibetan monasteries in south and central Tibet, but the aesthetics current in India under the Pâla and Sena dynasties are betrayed by the taste for inlay work, in this case the copper strings of pearls along the hems decorated with a scrolled motif bordering Shâkyamuni’s fine robe.

    Tibetan chronicles, ecclesiastical histories, eulogies and hagiographies of the more famous abbots of the monasteries in south and southwest Tibet indicate that the flow of Newar artists into the Land of Snows was uninterrupted. They imply or state that the style of the Nepal Valley predominated in Tibetan painting from the 10th until the mid-15th century and that in sculpture it continued well after that. There was no important Tibetan monastery which, at the moment of its foundation or renovation, was not embellished with statues or paintings by Newar artists. Indeed Newar sculptors have played an important role in the Land of Snows until the present century as a consequence of the reconstruction of several monasteries after their destruction during the Cultural Revolution.

    During the period of political and cultural predominance of the monastery of Sakya, in southwest Tibet, teams of Newar artists were invited by the abbots of the monasteries belonging to that order and Tibetan artists continued to be influenced by the aesthetics of the Nepal Valley. Large statues of Newar origin found in the main temple of the monastic fortress of Sakya are partially visible in a group of statues published by Giuseppe Tucci and reproduced by Ulrich von Schroeder, whereas Newar images ‘of the best style abound’ in another temple in the same monastery. More statues are extant in other monasteries also in central Tibet (1). The weight of the Newar artistic influence in southwest Tibet at the close of the 13th century may be exemplified by a fine stone image of Mahåkåla bearing a Tibetan inscription mentioning the famous prince-abbot of Sakya, Pakpa ('Phags-pa, 1235-1280), as well as a date equivalent to 1292 and the name of the artist, a Tibetan sculptor.(2)

    Three prongs along the base of the statue show that the main image once sat either on a throne or else on the traditional solar disc resting on a lotus flower.

    1) Cf. Giuseppe Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, Rinsen Book Co., Kyoto 1980, pp. 173-76, fig. 3-16, and p. 277, and Ulrich von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Visual Dharma Publications, Hong Kong 1981, p. 464, and Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, vol. II, Tibet and China, Visual Dharma Publications, Hong Kong 2001, p. 917, figs XV-3 and 4, and pp. 948-957, figs. XV-9 and X, and 225-228.

    2) Cf. Heather Stoddard, "A Stone Sculpture of mGur mGon-po, Mahâkâla of the Tent, Dated 1292", Oriental Art (New Series), XXXI/3 (autumn 1985), pp. 278-282, and Gilles Béguin, Art ésotérique de l'Himâlaya. La donation Lionel Fournier, Éditions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris 1990, pp. 50-56, figs 21-22.

  • Mahakala, Chaturbhuja

    Distemper on cloth
    111.8 x 76.2 cm (44 x 30 in)
    18th century, Gelug tradition

    Chaturbhuja, Mahakala (Tibetan: gon po, chag shi pa. English: the Great Black One with Four Hands). The principal protector of the Chakrasamvara class of Tantras; from the lineage of Arya Nagarjuna.

    Sanskrit: Chaturbhuja Tibetan: Chag shi pa

    Iconographic Elements of the Painting: Size, Descending Order & Hierarchy:

    - Chaturbhuja Mahakala (central image)

    - Lama Shang Yudragpa (top center)

    - Saraha, 8th Dalai Lama, Chakrasamvara, Hayagriva

    - Chandika (middle right)

    - Vaishravana, Bhagavan Mahakala (bottom left)

    - Four Retinue Figures (bottom right)

    Artistic Elements of the Composition:

    - Subject: figurative

    - Composition Type: Floating Figure

    - Ground Colour: Multi-coloured

    - Painting Style: New Menri

    - Region: Central Tibet

    - Date: late 18th century

    - Inscriptions: Tibetan names for most figures

    - Back of Painting: image not available

    - Artist: unknown at this time

    - Comparables by Subject: HAR #35880

    - Comparables by Style: HAR #707, #30630, #105

    "...Shri Jnana Nata Mahakala, the Great Solitary One, with a body blue-black in colour, dark like the end of time, with three round red eyes, quickly glancing, a radiant face with bared fangs, tongue lolling. The hair, eyebrows, moustache and beard are yellow like a blazing fire. There are four arms, the first right [hand] holds a coconut fruit that is like a [human] heart. The first left [hand] holds a blood filled skullcup at the level of the heart. The lower right [hand] holds a blazing sword aloft. The lower left holds a katvanga staff upraised marked with a trident. With five dry human skulls as a crown, fifty wet dripping heads as a necklace, a jewel at the crown [of the head], four races of snakes [ornaments] and adorned with all of the bone ornaments, wearing a lower garment of tiger skin, seated in a playful manner within a swirling heap of pristine awareness fire." (Karma Ngagwang Yontan Gyatso. Dam Ngag Dzo, vol.10 page 430).

    In addition to the description from a standard liturgical text (above), Mahakala has a blue coloured half vajra adorning the crown of the head along with a snake tied in the hair. The first right hand holds the light brown coconut but also holds a curved knife with a gold ornamented hilt and blue curved blade. In the second left hand the katvanga staff is more like a typical trident further decorated with a single skull and large red flag. A spear tip at the bottom of the shaft is pressed to the ground. Mahakala is also seated atop a prone figure of a dark brown man, naked and dishevelled.

    At the top center is Lama Shang Yudragpa Tsondru Dragpa (1122-1193 [Tbrc P1857]). He was a student of Gonpo Tsultrim Nyingpo (sgom pa tshul khrims snying po, 1116-1169) a nephew of Gampopa. He was also a student of Gva Lotsawa (rgwa lo tsA ba). The Tibetan lineage of the Four-armed Mahakala begins with Gva Lotsawa and for the specific lineage of Mahakala that continued from Lama Shang that line of descent is known as the Tsal Tradition (named after his monastery Tsal Gungtang). From this monastery a separate school of Kagyu originated called the Tsalpa Kagyu Tradition. The Dalai Lama Incarnation Lineage also records Lama Shang as a Dalai Lama pre-incarnation. An early 19th century painting by the Eastern Tibetan artist Khazi Lhazo includes an image of Shang Yudragpa which is very similar to the image of Lama Shang in this composition.

    At the viewer's left side of Lama Shang is the 8th Dalai Lama, Jampal Gyatso (1758-1804 [Tbrc P109]). He wears monastic robes and a yellow pandita hat typical of the Gelug Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Held in the proper right hand is a white lotus stem with the flower supporting a book and upright sword - the regular attributes of the 8th Dalai Lama. In the left hand is a Dharma Wheel indicating his sovereignty over all of Tibet. An inscription below identifies him as 'Lord of the Snow Mountains marked by Manjushri.' This is a reference to the long line of the Dalai Lamas as the spiritual and temporal rulers of Tibet with a smaller reference to Manjushri and his two attributes of a sword and a book which are associated here with the person of the 8th Dalai Lama.

    On the viewer's right side of Lama Shang is Chakrasamvara Heruka a meditational deity that is related to the Chaturbhuja (four armed) Mahakala. "Chakrasamvara, blue in colour, the right foot is extended pressing on red Kalaratri and the left drawn in [pressing] on black Bhairava. With one face and two hands, three eyes, the right hand holds a vajra and the left a bell; embracing the consort, with a crown of five dry human heads as a crown, a necklace of fifty wet, and adorned with the six bone ornaments. [Chakrasamvara is] embraced by the consort Vajravarahi, red in colour, with one face and two hands. The right hand holds a curved knife pointed to the ten directions. The left holds a skullcup filled with the five nectars and embraces the Father. [She is] adorned with a crown of five dry human heads, a [necklace] of fifty dry [heads] and the five bone ornaments." (Jamyang Kyentse Wangpo, 1820-1892).

    At the top left corner of the composition is the Indian Mahasiddha Saraha. He is brown in colour with long hair and a beard, holding an arrow. It is commonly said that he was an arrow maker by profession. Saraha belongs to the famous group of predominantly Indian Tantric practitioners known as the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas.

    In the top right corner of the composition is the 'Very Secret' Hayagriva with consort - a special practice of Sera Monastery. He functions as a meditational deity and further helps to identify the original ownership and sponsorship of the painting.

    At the middle right side, half way down the composition, is the small form of Chandika, female, red in colour, with one face and four arms. She is a retinue deity within the mandala of Chaturbhuja Mahakala.

    At the bottom left corner of the composition is Vaishravana Riding a Lion. He is considered both a protector and a wealth deity. In this context he is primarily a wealth deity. Behind him on the left side is the special worldly protector deity Dorje Ta'og principally associated with Sera Monastery. Below that is the female worldly goddess Dorje Yudronma riding on a horse. Below and to the right of Vaishravana is Dorje Legpa riding a lion. To the right again is a standing figure of Bhagavan Mahakala, maroon in colour, holding a staff and a bowl.

    At the bottom right side are four retinue figures from the mandala of Chaturbhuja Mahakala. Three are raven-faced and one is lion-faced, all female, all wrathful.

    Abhayakaragupta Lineage: Vajradhara, Bodhisattva Mati, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Acharyavira, Du Shap Greater and Younger, Vajrasana the Greater, Abhayakaragupta, Tsami Sanggye Shap, Gva Lotsawa Namgyal Dorje, Khampa Aseng, Pagmodrupa, etc.

    Tsal Lineage 1: Vajradhara, Nagarjuna Garbha, Aryadeva, Tayang Vajrasana, Abhayakara, Tsami, Gvalo, Pagdru, Tangpa, Ratna Nata, Sanggye Yarjon, Sanggye Palzang, Ratna Guru, Ratna Kara, etc.

    Tsal Lineage 2: Vajradhara, Vajrapani, Indrabhuti, Lakshminkara, Lu'i Bu Tubpama, Rahulabhadra, Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Tayang, Kalachakrapada, [Abhaya, Tsami], etc.

    Tsal Lineage 3: Vajrayogini, Ghantapa, Anangavajra, Lalitavajra, Kalachakrapada, Abhaya, Tsami, Gvalo, Shang Tsalpa, etc. (Rinjung Gyatsa, Tbrc pages 16801218 - 16801220).