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Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

  • Object:

    Figure

  • Place of origin:

    Tibet (made)

  • Date:

    14th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gilt copper, set with natural turquoise (as well as glass simulants), garnets, green transparent glass (foiled and tinted green), colourless transparent glass (foiled and tinted red).

  • Museum number:

    IM.239-1922

  • Gallery location:

    Buddhism, Room 18, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Galleries of Buddhist Art, case 2

  • Public access description

    The figure represents the Buddhist Lord of Compassion, the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, in his popular manifestation as Padmapani, the lotus-bearer. The Bodhisattva’s right hand is lowered in the gesture of granting wishes ('varadamudra'). His left is ready to support the stem of the lotus ('padma'), but this is now missing.

    Newar craftsmen made this finely jewelled image for Tibetan patrons, probably in Shigatse, southern Tibet, where it was acquired. It exemplifies the long tradition, beginning in the 7th century AD, of Newar craftsmen from the Kathmandu Valley working for Tibetan patrons in Tibet itself.

    Bodhisattva Padmapani
    Nepal
    Late 14th-early 15th century, Malla period
    Gilt copper inlaid with precious & semi-precious stones, ht. 93 cm
    V&A IM.239-1922

    The Buddhist lord of compassion, Avalokitesvara, is represented in his popular manifestation as Padmapani, the Lotus Bearer. Padmapani is one of the Bodhisattvas, enlightened beings who voluntarily postpone passing into nirvana in order to help others gain salvation. The concept of the Bodhisattva was developed in the Mahayanist school of Buddhist thought and gained enormous popularity in the Himalayas and the greater Asian world. The stillness and serenity of this figure speaks of the state of harmony to which the Bodhisattva aspires, while the flexed and sensuous links him to the human world. The Bodhisattva’s right hand is lowered in the gesture of granting wishes (varadamudra). His left hand is poised to support the stem of the lotus (padma), but this is now missing. The figure is richly adorned with jewellery detailing inset with precious and semi-precious stones. He wears a five-pointed diadem surrounding his elaborate raised hair (jatamukuta) which is surmounted by a small image of the Buddha Amitabha, of whom Avalokitesvara Padmapani is seen as an emanation.

    Newar craftsmen made this finely jewelled image for Tibetan patrons, probably in Shigatse, central Tibet, where it was acquired. It exemplifies the long tradition, beginning in the 7th century CE, of Newar craftsmen from the Kathmandu Valley working for Tibetan patrons in Tibet. This masterpiece of Newari metal-casting was acquired by Brigadier-General C.G. Rawlings at Shigatse in 1904, whilst en route to Lhasa as part of the British Younghusband expedition. It is recorded that several members of the expedition acquired examples of ‘Lamaist’ art in the course of this journey.

  • Physical description

    The Buddhist lord of compassion, Avalokitesvara, is represented in his popular manifestation as Padmapani, the Lotus Bearer. Padmapani is one of the bodhisattvas, enlightened beings who voluntarily postpons passing into nirvana in order to help others gain salvation. The concept of the boddhisattva was developed in the Mahayanist school of Buddhist thought and gained enormous popularity in the Himalayas. The stillness and serenity of this figure speaks of the state of harmony to which the boddhisattva aspires, while the sensuous contrapposto of Padmapani's sleek, androgynous body ties him to the human world.

  • Dimensions

    Height: 93 cm, Width: 34 cm, Depth: 16.5 cm

  • Object history note

    This exquisite sculpture was acquired by Brigadier-General C.G.Rawlings while in the Xigaze (Shigatse) District of central Tibel in 1904. He was a member of the Younghusband Expedition which that year fought its way from India to Llasa in an attempt to force Tibet to engage in trade with British India. It is recorded that several members of the expedition acquired examples of "Lamaist" art en route.
    By 1922, when this piece was purchased for £210, Indian sculptures in general- not just Gandharan works in the Western taste were becoming valued for their aesthetic as well as their antiquarian worth.

  • Descriptive line

    Figure of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Padmapani), the Lotus Bearer, gilt-copper set with natural turquoise (as well as glass simulants), garnets, green and colourless glass, Nepal, 14th century

  • Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

    John Guy, A Grand Design, The Arts of the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1997, p240-1
    Guy, John (ed.). ‘L’Escultura en els Temples Indis: L’Art de la Devocio’, Barcelona : Fundacio ‘La Caixa’, 2007. p.143.
    ISBN 9788476649466
    p. 91
    Ayers, J. Oriental Art in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1983, ISBN 0-85667-120-7
    Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.
    Orientations; vol. 40. no. 4; May 2009; The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum.
    Amy Heller, Tibetan Buddhist Sculptures in the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery, p. 58.

  • Labels and date

    The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
    (Padmapani)
    1300–1400
    Malla dynasty
    Nepal
    Gilded copper with precious and semi-precious stones
    Padmapani, or ‘Bearer of the lotus’, is one of the most
    important forms of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara,
    the most widely worshipped of all the bodhisattvas.
    This finely jewelled image was made by Newar
    craftsmen from the Kathmandu Valley for Tibetan
    patrons. The figure’s left hand once held the stem
    of a flowering lotus.
    Museum no. IM.239-1922
    Ex Younghusband Expedition 1904 [1/4/2009]

  • Collection code

    South & South East Asia Collection