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HOME : Asian Art : Art of Tibet : Gilt-Bronze Vajrasattva
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Gilt-Bronze Vajrasattva - CB.3319
Origin: Tibet
Circa: 18 th Century AD to 19 th Century AD
Dimensions: 6.9" (17.5cm) high x 4.2" (10.7cm) wide x 3.2" (8.1cm) depth
Collection: Asian Art
Style: Sino-Tibetan
Medium: Gilt-Bronze

Location: Great Britain
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This sumptuous gilt-bronze statuette depicts the Vajrasattva, the Bodhisattva of Purification. In the Buddhist religion, bodhisattvas are souls who have attained enlightenment and no longer need to reincarnate, but forsake nirvana and choose to remain on earth to alleviate the suffering of others. This Vajrasattva bodhisattva is shown seated in Dhyana asana, with the soles of his feet facing upwards, and holds the two characteristics of the Vajrasattva: the vajra, or thunderbolt/diamond, held in his right hand, and the ghanta, or bell, held in his left hand. The former represents a weapon won in battle which is used as a ritual object to symbolize both the properties of diamond (indestructability) and thunderbolt (irresistible force). The latter represents a bell that, when rung, emanates an auspicious sound. Together, these two symbols have weighty meaning in the Buddhist faith. Atop the Vajrasattva’s head, we see an ornate five-pronged crown that surrounds the central top-knot (or ushnisha) of the extra brain, symbolic of the Buddha’s spiritual wisdom. This particular ushnisha greatly resembles a stupa, an architectural mound containing relics or representations of the Buddha himself. From beneath the crown, instead of a detailed and ornate drape of surplice, this bodhisattva has long hair that continues all the way down past the earring-clad earlobes – a feature reminiscent of the princely Siddhartha Gautama’s removal of the royal earrings, a symbol of the Buddha’s renunciation of the physical world. As bodhisattvas have remained in the earthly realm to assist others achieve enlightenment, however, they still sport the princely earrings. In addition to the earrings, jewelry adorns the Vajrasattva’s neck, chest, arms, wrists, waist, and even back, reflecting his royal origins. The Vajrasattva sits atop an augmented double-lotus flower base that emphasizes height rather than width. The lotus flower motif appears more functional here, rather than symbolic or decorative. The steep height is a testament to the base’s insurmountable nature. Magnus Allan - (CB.3319)


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