A LARGE AND RARE BRONZE FIGURE OF EKADASHAMUKHA LOKESHVARA TIBET, 13TH CENTURY |
- Height: 37 3/4 in. (97 cm)
This form of the bodhisattva has been popular with Tibetan Buddhists since the reintroduction of the faith in the country during the Chidar, or Later Diffusion of Faith, corresponding to around 1000-1200 C. E. The iconography of this example corresponds to eastern Indian Pala period (c. 750-1200) sculpture, such as a twelfth century northern Bengal copper alloy statue depicting Ekadashamukha Lokeshvara now in the Potala, see Ulrich von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Hong Kong, 2001, Vol I. p. 238, pl. 72A.
The cult was not popular in Nepal in this early period, and it may be assumed that it was Indian Buddhist culture that was the source of the deity’s practice in Tibet. Indeed the style of the present example owes much to the artistic traditions of the Pala period, including the linear stance, as seen in the Pala example of the same iconography, and the necklace with distinctive inverted teardrop pendants held by flower petal clasps; compare the necklace pendants on an eleventh century Pala period crowned Buddha in Mindroling, ibid., p. 265, pl. 84C. Also compare the Tibetan 1150-1250 copper alloy Tathagatas at Nyethang monastery, ibid., Vol. II, pp. 1166-7, pls. 310A-E, including the drop necklace, circular beaded earring and armband design, the casting sprues left in place in the crown, and the scrolling vine design of the central element of the crown, including the miniature image of Buddha.
Nyethang was one of the principal residences in Tibet of the Indian guru Atisha (982-1054), founder of the Kadam order, who was known to have employed Indian artists, the legacy of whom is manifest in this important statue of Ekadashamukha Lokeshvara. It remains one of the larger copper alloy examples of the bodhisattva outside Tibet which date to this early formative period of Tibet’s art history; for a large and later example, dating to circa 1400, see Pratapaditya Pal, Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure, Chicago, 2003, p. 226, pl. 147.