Vajrasattva
Central or Eastern Java
Late 10th–first half of the 11th century
Gold figure with rubies, gilt silver base
15.4 cm (6 in)
Provenanace
Exhibited
Publications

This sculpture depicts bodhisattva Vajrasattva, an important deity in Mahayana and Tantrayana Buddhism.

The deity is seated on a double lotus throne on a rectangular pedestal, which is elaborated surmounted by a row of antefixes in the shape of flames. The trilobed throne back is also embellished with a string of pearls and leaping tongues of flames. As a bodhisattva, Vajrasattva is dressed in royal attire. His right leg is placed on the left thigh in the posture known as sattvaparyanka. In the right hand, raised in front of the chest, he holds a vajra (thunderbolt), which is the deity’s chief attribute, while the left hand, resting on the thigh, carries a ghanta (priest’s bell), another of his attributes.  Behind the deity is a jewel-shaped nimbus with string and pearl motifs.

This sculpture is a superb example of Indonesian metalwork art. Ancient Java artists excelled in metalwork in the form of jewellery and religious images. Fashioned from bronze, silver and gold, Javanese metalworking reached its zenith in the 10th and 11th centuries CE. The deity is made of solid gold, with rubies set on the figure’s armbands, necklace pendant, earrings and forehead decoration, while the throne and pedestal are silver gilded. The juxtaposition of two contrasting metals, gold and silver, dramatically enhance the composition, focusing attention on the seated images.  

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