Vajradhara

14th/15th century
Tibet
Gilt copper alloy
Height: 46 cm - 18 in

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Vajradhara, the ultimate essence of allbuddhas, is seated in dhyanasana upona double lotus throne. Held acrosshis chest, the Buddha's hands cross one another in the position of "highestenergy", and a vajra and ghanta placed on shoulder-level lotusflowers allow for his identification as Vajradhara. Although portrayed in the typical posture of a Buddha, hisprincely garments, lavish jewels, and opulent crown are befitting a celestialbodhisattva.

Falling gracefully in concentric folds offabric across his legs, Vajradhara's long dhotiis stylistically reminiscent of Yongle sculpture, a school that influencedTibetan artists during the latter part of the fifteenth century.[1] His jewelry includes a necklace withcentral pendant, double strand of beads, foliate armbands, anklets, disk-shapedearrings, and a narrow belt. Asidefrom the ringlets that have escaped, the Buddha's hair has been arranged atophis head behind a striking tiered crown which would have been completed by a vajra finial (now missing). Ribbons attached to the elaborateheaddress flutter gracefully on either side. Highlighted against the gilt sheen of Vajradhara's body,many of the ornaments have been tastefully inlaid with semi-precious gems andturquoise, a material favored by Tibetan artists. The divinity's countenance beams with a gentle, engagingsmile, bearing the peaceful expression of one who has attained spiritualenlightenment. Yet, his eyesremain heavily lowered in meditation.

Although it is likely that the refinedbronze was cast in Tibet, the lovely, soft facial features and jewelry exhibita strong Newari influence. Possibly, the bronze was the work of a Newari artist living in Tibet, aswas often the case. When comparedto a gilt bronze image of Vajrasattva attributed to either Tibet or Nepal,formerly in the Zimmerman Collection, stylistic similarities are evident in theproportions of the bodies, the beatific facial features, and the regal yetrestrained jewelry.[2] The ribbons, garments and lotus base ofthe present example also relate to an image of Vajradhara in the collection ofthe Newark Museum which has been attributed to fifteenth/sixteenth centuryTibet.[3] Regardless of its exact origin, it isan elegant and spiritually imbued sculpture which was undoubtedly awe-inspiringfor worshippers.

Notes:

[1] See Rhie and Thurman (2000), p. 357.

[2] See Pal (1991), no. 70.

[3] See Rhie and Thurman (2000), pl. 140.