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Rossi & Rossi

17th-18th c.
gilded copper
32.5 cm - 12 3/4 in

Maitreya, the Future Buddha, is depicted standing in tribhanga or the triple bend posture. Currently a bodhisattva, he resides in Tushita heaven until the time he will descend into this world as the next Buddha. He raises his right hand, which might have held a rosary, in the vitarka mudra (teaching gesture) and holds the kundika with the elixir of immortality in his left hand. His hair is piled high, his ushnisha is topped with a jewel and a miniature stupa rests against the ushnisha. An antelope skin is draped over his left shoulder; a long skirt with simple incised decoration clings smoothly to his legs, revealing their shape. Pleated details on both sides lend a sense of movement to the sculpture. A sash is slung diagonally from his left hip to the right one; a sacred thread hangs across his chest and loops over and under his sash, in a way extremely similar to much earlier Newar examples.

The style of this image goes back to earlier representations of Maitreya that are prevalent in Newar sculpture and have their origins in Gupta India. It follows Newar ideals: Maitreya is depicted as a princely bodhisattva draped in antelope skin, with a slender figure and high chignon. Typical Mongolian characteristics specific to Zanabazar and his school are the energetic youthfulness, facial features and soft sleekness of the form.

Maitreya held a deep significance for the Gelukpa, whose power was rapidly spreading in Mongolia during Zanabazar�s time. Tsong Khapa, the first Gelukpa hierarch, held the first Maitreya festival in 1409. He named his first monastery Ganden, which is also the alternative name for the Geluk order, and Tibetan for Maitreya�s Tushita Heaven. Maitreya was the chief object of Zanabazar�s meditations. Zanabazar established the Maitreya festival in Mongolia, first held in 1657 at Erdeni Zuu. At least two Maitreya images, now in Ulan Bator and very similar to this one, are attributed to Zanabazar himself.

all text, images � Rossi & Rossi


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