Gilt bronze with semiprecious stones
15 1/8 in (38.4 cm)
Originally, the figure would have stood on a lotus base. Clad in a dhoti and a sash and bedecked sumptuously with a profusion of semiprecious stones, the tall, slim figure stretches his right hand in the charity gesture, while the left appears as if grasping the stem of the lotus. In fact, the stem is attached to the upper arm and ends at the elbow. The lotus helps to identify the bodhisattva as Avalokiteshvara.
There seems no doubt that the figure represents the classic form for the deity favored by Newar sculptors. However, whether it was created in the Kathmandu Valley or in a Newar workshop is more difficult to ascertain. Generally, it is of the same generic type as the impressive bronze in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and a smaller example in a private collection (von Schroeder 1981, nos. 94B and 94F). The V&A bronze was acquired from Shigatse but is considered to be a Nepali work. It could equally have been made in a Newar workshop in Shigatse. The Ford figure is not as robustly modeled as the V&A version, and clearly the sculptor has used different proportions, resulting in a more slender figure with long arms and legs. Similarly lissome proportions, especially of the legs and the spare frame, are found on other Tibetan figures as well (see Uhlig 1995, cat. No. 105; Weldon and Singer 1999, p. 114, pl. 24). In fact, the latter figure, in the Nyingjei Lam Collection, described as a "long-limbed, slender youth with princely adornment," has features that are applicable to the Ford Avalokiteshvara as well. However, the tiara and the adornments of the Ford figure are even more luxuriant, with the colorful stone-encrusted lotus, turquoise-inlaid urna (rectangular also in the V&A and the Nyingjei Lam collection), and the tiara embellished with the auspicious face-of-glory (kirtimukha) motif.
all text and images © The Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore