18 5/8 in. (47.4 cm.)
Provenance: C.T. Loo, Paris, 1930s
Standing with the right elbow bent and holding a vajra in the right hand, the left hand holding a ghanta and gently resting on the hip, with a serene expression and with pendulous earlobes ornamented with earrings, surmounted by an elaborate five-pointed crown adorned with billowing ribbons and enclosing an image of Akshobya, the figure clad in a diaphanous dhoti delicately detailed with foliate motif and cascading in folds near the feet.
This outstanding large and richly gilded sculpture is a rare early image of Vajrapani of majestic size and naturalistic detail of the highest quality. The bodhisattva is depicted standing tall in a regal poise, adorned in an elaborate crown enclosing an image of Akshobhya, and holding a vajra and ghanta. The aristocratic features of his countenance are enhanced by the opulent crown, jewelry and ribbons. Displaying tremendous power and presence, this figure demonstrates the marriage of Pala stylistic elements and the Tibetan sculptural tradition.
Vajrapani is associated with the sambhogakaya and is invoked as a support for purification practices to dispel obstacles in tantric practice. The bodhisattva is depicted here standing holding a vajra in his right hand and a ghanta in his left. The elaborate crown with beaded border is surmounted by a superbly rendered five-pointed crown. The broad, square forehead is offset by the gentle curves of the face. The hair, piled high atop the head, cascades over the powerfully moulded shoulders.
The current figure is one of a group of three which are very closely matched in style, iconography and size. The first, in the British Museum, is another image of Vajrasattva, the second, in the Cleveland Museum of Art, is an image of Maitreya, both illustrated in Pratapaditya Pal, The Arts of Nepal, Leiden, 1974, pls 213 and 214, and discussed by Pal, pp. 214-215, where he notes the ‘smooth fluidity that makes the figures exceptionally graceful’, a description which applies equally to the current sculpture. All three share the same combination of powerful standing posture and graceful curving form, and similar design motifs including the jewellery and other adornments and the intricate floral designs on the dhoti.
See also similar iconography on a larger figure of Vajrasattva, from the collection of A. and J. Speelman assigned to Central or Western Tibet, eleventh to twelfth century, illustrated in Marylin M. Rhie, and Robert A. F. Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, London, 1996, p. 464, pl. 219. A possible origin of the unusual three-leaf crown type can be seen on an eleventh century Nepalese figure of Padmapani in the Cincinnati Art Museum, illustrated by Ulrich von Schroder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, p. 329, pl. 86E.