The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

citation

The sculpture depicts a standing figure [standing in thrice-bent “tribhanga” posture, atop a small, flat, oval base. The right forearm of the figure is raised with the palm of the hand facing forward. The left arm is down at the figure’s side and holds a stem that rises up to a large flower that sits above the left shoulder. An ornate headdress with flowing scarves, and a band of flowers that run down one side of the body and up the other side, adorn the figure.

Only the front of the sculpture is decorated; the back is plain. Chasing, inlay, and gilding were used to decorate the figure, but just traces of the gilding remain. The eyes are inlaid with gray metal and a black material. The back of the head is covered with blue paint. The skirt of the figure is decorated with chasing and the recessed design on the skirt is filled with black and red colored materials. Most of the surface is bare metal and is a light golden brown color.

Maker(s)
Artist: Attributed to Mati
Historical period(s)
11th century
Medium
Brass alloy with copper and tin inlay, colored wax, traces of gilding and pigment.
Dimensions
H x W x D: 82.3 x 32.1 x 21.6 cm (32 3/8 x 12 5/8 x 8 1/2 in)
Geography
Western Tibet
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
F2001.2a-d
On View Location
Freer Gallery 02: Body Image: Arts of the Indian Subcontinent
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Sculpture
Type

Figure

Keywords
Avalokitesvara, bodhisattva, Buddhism, casting, chasing, gilding, inlay, lotus, prayer beads, Tibet, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

From 1960s
Nitta Muneichi, Taiwan and Japan, from the 1960s [1]

To 2001
Rossi & Rossi, Ltd., London, to 2001

From 2001
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Rossi & Rossi, Ltd. in 2001

Notes:

[1] While the publication of the Nitta catalog was not until 1987, Stan Czuma (in an unpublished paper) dates this object's entry into the collection to the 1960s (according to Curatorial Note 3, Debra Diamond, January 10, 2001, in the object record). See The Crucible of Compassion and Wisdom: Special Exhibition Catalog of the Buddhist Bronzes from the Nitta Group Collection at the National Palace Museum (Taipei: 1987).

Previous Owner(s)

Rossi & Rossi, Ltd.
Nitta Muneichi

Description

The sculpture depicts a standing figure [standing in thrice-bent "tribhanga" posture, atop a small, flat, oval base. The right forearm of the figure is raised with the palm of the hand facing forward. The left arm is down at the figure's side and holds a stem that rises up to a large flower that sits above the left shoulder. An ornate headdress with flowing scarves, and a band of flowers that run down one side of the body and up the other side, adorn the figure.

Only the front of the sculpture is decorated; the back is plain. Chasing, inlay, and gilding were used to decorate the figure, but just traces of the gilding remain. The eyes are inlaid with gray metal and a black material. The back of the head is covered with blue paint. The skirt of the figure is decorated with chasing and the recessed design on the skirt is filled with black and red colored materials. Most of the surface is bare metal and is a light golden brown color.

Label

Early Buddhist doctrine emphasizes self-liberation with the Buddha as the exemplar. In contrast, later Buddhism emphasizes the salvation of all sentient creatures through the benevolent assistance of enlightened beings known as bodhisattvas. Tibetans regard the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara (literally, the Lord Who Looks Down from on High), as their supreme protector and seek his intercession through meditation, prayer and offerings. This graceful and majestic Avalokiteshvara holds prayer beads and a lotus blossom. His silvery eyes, pure copper lip and nipples, and red-and-black-patterned garb vividly enhance the dark gleam of the brass alloy. The sculpture was created for a Tibetan monastery and is attributed to Mati, an artist from Kashmir (located in present-day northwest India), then a renowned center of Buddhist teaching and visual culture.

Published References
  • The Crucible of Compassion and Wisdom: Special Exhibition Catalog of the Buddhist Bronzes from the Nitta Group Collection at the National Palace Museum. Taipei. .
  • pp. 90-91.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum