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Marcel Nies

10. Nilambaradhara Vajrapani
12th-13th century
Fine rich metal alloy, cast in the lost wax method, silver inlay
Height: 19cm
Nilambaradhara Vajrapani

The Bodhisattva Vajrapani is the compassionate patron of the teachings of Buddha and protector of the nagas. He is worshipped as a spiritual hero in his nilambaradhara aspect, a fierce appearance of a dharmapala known as a powerful protector of the Buddhist doctrine and remover of obstacles for mankind.

Vajrapani steps vigourously to the right in the pratyalidha attitute, his feet on a single lotus pedestal. The vajra depicted in his raised right hand represents his symbol and stands for great compassion and helps to attain enlightenment. The ghanta shown at the god’s hip is the female counterpart and symbolizes the universal vacuity and passive element of wisdom.

The god is dressed in a tiger skin, the vyaghra-chamara, standing for desire, and is adorned with a crown, circular earrings, and a necklace. Writhing snakes form his bracelets, armbands, and anklets, and the sacred cord is slung over his shoulder and around his pendulous belly. His hair is tied up in a high bun with some strands of hair falling on the shoulders. An urna marks his forehead and refers to Buddha and his enlightenment.

Representing an early pure Tibetan style, this bronze Vajrapani is among the earliest known examples. The beautiful lively metal alloy, the unfinished back, the large engraved lotus leaves and the struts between the crown leaves are all typical characteristics. The rich surface of the bronze is smooth from centuries of handling, and the image bears three seals: below the throne, on the back and one in the back of his head.

This wonderful statue of Vajrapani has an inspired composition, full of energy it reveals the god’s supreme power. Striking are the movements of the imposing arms and the posture of his legs, all convincingly balanced. His open fearless eyes, fangs emerging from his snarling mouth, a flaming moustache, bared teeth and furrowed nose, all contribute to his mighty appearance.

Collection Mr. Captain Anders Dahlman, Sweden.
Collection Mrs. W. van Hoogstraten Fetlaer, The Netherlands, 1992–2017

Marcel Nies, Spirit of Compassion – Himalayan Images of The Past, Present and Future, Antwerpen 1995, pp. 50–51.
J. Van Alphen, Cast for Eternity, Bronze Masterpieces from Belgian and Dutch Collections, Ethnographic Museum, Antwerp, 2004, pp. 158–159, fig. 48B.

P. Pal, Art of Tibet, A catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection, California, 1983, pp. 210–211, fig. S22.
U. Von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, vol. II, Tibet & China, Hong Kong, 2001, p. 1148, pl. 301B.
Ibid., vol. I, India & Nepal, Hong Kong, 2001, p. 243, pl. 74C.
J. Menzies, Buddha Radiant Awakening, Sydney, 2001, pp. 204–205, fig. 53.

all text, images © Marcel Nies
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