Tibetan / Goddess / Late 11th-early 12th centuryTibetan
Late 11th-early 12th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Tibetan
Creator Name-CRT: Tibetan
Title: Goddess
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1066
Creation End Date: 1133
Creation Date: Late 11th-early 12th century
Creation Place: Tibet
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Pyrophyllite with gilding and blue pigment
Dimensions: H. 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm); W. 2 1/8 in. (5.4 cm) at base
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.038
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Rights: http://www.asiasociety.org
Context: Tibetan sculpture is characterized by a conservative and complicated iconography, and the acceptance and adaptation of figures, facial types, and clothing associated with many other cultures and various eras. This charming image of a seated goddess illustrates the influence of Pala-period Indian iconography and style on Tibetan art. The elongated proportions of the goddess, the oval face and eyes, and the long, straight nose derive from the art of eastern India, and parallels to Pala pieces help date this sculpture to the late 11th or early 12th century. Seated in the posture of relaxation (lalitasana) on a lotus pedestal, she holds her hands in the gesture of preaching (dharmachakramudra). Originally a figure was placed on each side of the lotus pedestal, but only one remains clearly discernible. Several smaller figures, some of whom are dancing and playing musical instruments, and two lions are also depicted on the base of the pedestal.

The main figure's posture and gesture are used in representations of the two most important goddesses in Buddhism, Tara and Prajnaparamita. Their attributes help to distinguish them. Prajnaparamita holds a pundarika lotus upon which sits a book, while Tara holds the blue lotus. Unfortunately only fragments remain of the two lotuses once found to either side of this sculpture. However, since several similar metal sculptures are identified as Tara, who is much more commonly represented in the art of Tibet, this statue has also been identified as an image of that goddess.

This sculpture is made of an ivory-toned stone known as pyrophyllite. Stone sculptures are rare in Tibet, however, a few other examples made of an ivorylike stone are known. These stone sculptures are quite small, and their scale and rarity suggest that they may have had a specific ritual or religious function. As is common in Tibet, the hair of this goddess was painted blue. In addition, the entire figure (but not the base) is gilt; some scholars have suggested that this may be a later addition.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 21.
Related Document Description: Huntington, Susan L. 'Pre Pala and Pala Period Sculptures in the Rockefeller Collection.' Apollo (November 1983), pp. 373, 376.
Related Document Description: Huntington, Susan L., and John C. Huntington. Leaves from the Bodhi Tree: The Art of Pala India (8th-12th Centuries) and Its International Legacy. Dayton and Seattle: Dayton Art Institute and University of Washington Press, 1990, pp. 361-62.
Related Document Description: Lopez, Donald S., Jr., and Steven C. Rockefeller. Images of the Christ and the Bodhisattva. Middlebury, Vt.: Christian A. Johnson Memorial Gallery of Middlebury College, 1984, cat. no. 31.
Related Document Description: Newman, Richard. The Stone Sculpture of India: A Study of the Materials Used by Indian Sculptors from ca. 2nd Century B.C. to the 16th Century. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Art Museums, Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 1984, pp. 17, 34, 35, 68, 77, 84.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.038
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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