Manjusri

11th/12th century
Nepal
Copper alloy
Height: 25.7 cm- 10 ⅛ in.


The manuscript held in the extended lefthand of this figure is the characteristic attribute of Manjusri, a bodhisattvawho is particularly popular in Nepal where he is associated with the origin ofthe Kathmandu Valley.[1] Known as the god of infinite wisdom,Manjusri is depicted here in a meditative pose. He sits in sattvasana withhis right hand raised in the gesture of argumentation, vitarka mudra. Bearingan introspective expression, the divinity's full face has been rendered sensitively,as is typical of Nepali sculpture. His eyes are gently downcast beneath finely-incised, arched eyebrows,his nose is aquiline, and his small rosebud mouth is set in a subtlesmile. In contrast to thesimplicity of his dhoti and diagonalsash, the youthful deity is adorned by an elaborate, foliate crown bordered bya double row of seed pearls.[2] Behind the headdress, Manjusri's thickhair is arranged in a towering topknot from which long tresses fall onto hisshoulders. In addition to thecrown, he is decorated by a pair of floral earrings, a double-stranded necklacewith central foliate pendant, armlets, and a belt with floral closure. Remains of cold-gilding are presentthroughout.

Stylistically, this bronze relates to alarger ninth-century image of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani in the PritzkerCollection.[3] There has been some debate over the exactorigin of these and a group of stylistically similar works, many of whichremain in Lhasa. Some scholars believethat they were cast in Nepal and imported to Tibet, yet others have assertedthat they were made in a Newar workshop in Tibet. Regardless, it is certain that they exhibit strong Newarifeatures.[4]

[1] It is legend in Nepal that Manjusri arrived from neighboring China,and with his sword, cut open a gorge to drain excess water from the valley atChaubar. Thus, the KathmanduValley was born. See Pal (1974),p. 122.

[2] For a similar 11th/12th century crown typefrom Tibet, see Weldon and Casey Singer (1999), pl. 11.

[3] See Pal (2003), no. 5.

[4] Ibid.