This exceptional, gilded, cast-copper alloy image of the bhodistattva Maitreya is especially beautiful and well proportioned.
The bodhisattva is seated in bhadrasana with his legs draped over the front of the pedestal with the feet resting on a lotus support. The hands are in the dharmachakramudra posture (‘turning the Wheel of Law’). Lotus blossoms are cast to each shoulder and on these are Maitreya’s attributes, the kundika vessel and a chakra. The figure wears a dhoti engraved with flowers, and abundant jewellery including large earrings, a multi-peaked crown, anklets, garlands and bracelets. Unusually, pendant garlands are draped over the knees.
The image has a particularly fine face with refined features. The gaze is downcast with a hint of a smile. The look is austere but compassionate.
Apart from being gilded, the image has traces of pigment – the hair is colour blue and there are pigment traces about the crown to denote jewels.
This depiction of the bodhisattva is associated with Maitreya as the future Buddha, who is ready to rise from his throne and come into this world (Spink,1995). Maitreya (in Tibetan byams.pa) means ‘Loving One’. He is the Buddha of the next age (kalpa) and resides in the Tushita heaven. He is destined to appear in this world to teach the Dharma (Buddhist Law), thereby heralding an age that will be a complete victory for Buddhism. In this way, the cult of Maitreya reflects messianic tendencies in the Vajrayana school.
The image was acquired by the previous (UK-based) owner at the well-known London gallery Spink. The image itself appears in two past Spink catalogues. A related image, probably from the same workshop and also attributed to the fifteenth century, is published in Arts of Asia, 2011, p. 10.
The image here is in excellent condition. Its consecration is intact.
Heller, A., Tibetan Art: Tracing the Development of Spiritual Ideals and Art in Tibet, 600-2000AD, Jaca Books, 2000.
Spink, The Mirror of the Mind: Art of Vajrayana Buddhism, Spink London, 1995.
Spink, The Path to Enlightenment: Buddhist Art Through the Ages, Spink Singapore, 1997.