Ca. 12th century
Bronze with zinc alloy inlay
41.5 cm (16 ½ in)

This sculpture portrays Vajravarahi, the diamond sow, one of the most popular female Tantric deities in Tibetan Buddhism. Here the deity is depicted in one of her most popular forms: standing in a dancing posture. The base of this sculpture, which would have also featured a human corpse for the goddess to dance on, is now lost.

Vajravarahi’s key attribute is the presence of a sow’s head either on top of or, as in the case of this sculpture, to the right side of her head. Her right hand is raised high above her head and carries a vajra (thunderbolt), while her left hand is held in front of her waist holding a skull cup.

The sculpture reflects the strong influence of Indian aesthetics on Tibetan artists, especially from the 11th to the 14th century. This influences can be seen in the small size of the skull cup, the articulation of her jewellery and finely pleated scarf, and the use of inlay to embellish the deity’s eyes. There are traces of iron near the earrings which suggests an iron band was originally used to support a skull necklace threaded through the loops on the thighs.