Tibetan / Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara / 15th-16th centuryTibetan
Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
15th-16th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Tibetan
Creator Name-CRT: Tibetan
Title: Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1400
Creation End Date: 1599
Creation Date: 15th-16th century
Creation Place: Western Tibet
Object Type: Sculpture
Classification Term: Bronzes
Materials and Techniques: Copper alloy
Dimensions: H. 7 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1994.004
Credit Line: Asia Society: Gift from the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund
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 sculpture of Avalokiteshvara seated on alotus pedestal exemplifies the intermingling of styles and imagery in Tibetan art. He holds an elegant lotus in his left hand. A tenon on the back of his right arm and a small cup on the right side of the base indicate that a second lotus was placed on that side as well. He wears a long skirtlike garment that wraps around his waist and is secured with a sash. The skirt is decorated with delicately incised patterns of flowers and circles that alternate in vertical rows. Floral patterns are also incised intothe sash, and leaflike forms decorate the meditation, or yoga, strap over his pendant right leg. Avalokiteshvara has long hair worn in a chignon, with the exception of the three braids at the back of his head and the two braids to either side of his face. A small seated buddha and two flowers are placed among the soft curls on his forehead.

The bodhisattva's form and features are continuations of the Pala style, but the meditation strap may illustrate the continuation of earlier Kashmiripracticesin Tibetan Buddhism. Such meditation straps are found in Kashmiri sculptures dating to the 7th and 8th centuries and in Tibetan paintings of the 16th century and later. There were some sectarian differences between the type of Esoteric Buddhismpracticedin Kashmir, which focused on the worship of Vairochana and four other buddhas, and that practiced in the Pala kingdom, which centered on texts such as the Kalachakra Tantra. Both forms of Esoteric Buddhism were followed in Tibet, and it would be interesting to determine whether or not the representation of meditation straps in Tibetan art illustrates sectarian differences in the practice of the religion.

The long inscription written along the base of the lotus suggests that this sculpture was either commissioned by or made by a Nepali living in Tibet. The inscription has been translated by John C. Huntington as: 'Om Svasti all seeing best god of gods Avalokiteshvara / At the ceremony of the Chomo Sheep miracle the learned [or skillful] Nepali,Aphajyoti, made/ The consecrated offering of this beneficial deva under the [direction of] the perfected Tibetan Padma Bangrgyal / Because of this virtuous [action] [may] all beings quickly receive enlightenment / Mangalam [benefaction].' Theinscription refers to Padma Bangrgyal (1497-1542), implying that this type of image reflects the teachings of this monk. It also suggests a date in the 15th or 16th century, which is in keeping with the dense treatment of the lotus pedestals on the base.

Related Document Description: Pal, Pratapaditya. 'Bronzes of Tibet.' Arts of Asia 5 (November-December 1975), p. 33.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1994.004
AMICA Library Year: 1999
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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