Spink & Son Ltd., London
European Private Collection, acquired in 1989
This elegant sculpture depicts Avalokiteshvara Padmapani seated at ease with his left leg reaching over the pedestal (vamardhaparyanka), his right hand raised in a gesture of reassurance (abhaya mudra) and holding the stem of the eponymous lotus flower (padma) in the left. Amitabha, the bodhisattva’s spiritual progenitor, is depicted at the center of the three-panel crown. The sculpture displays quintessential attributes of the Swat Valley aesthetic, including thick curls of hair at the forehead, a fan-shaped chignon, a simple beaded necklace, broad shoulders and attenuated waist, elongated silver inlaid eyes, and a distinctive waisted lotus pedestal. This specific array of stylistic elements is seen on a seventh-or eighth-century Swat Valley Padmapani in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Traces of gold paint on the face and neck and blue in the hair indicate Tibetan ritual practice. The statue is likely to have been taken to Tibet from India between circa 1000 and 1200 during the revival of Buddhism in Tibet, either as a prized relic or for safekeeping at the time of religious upheaval in Kashmir. The smooth and rounded surface suggests that the bronze had been in worship in India for some considerable time before it was taken to Tibet. Lustration of metal images is common during Indian ritual practice, unlike in Tibet, which over time leads to abrasion of the surface and protruding features. The renowned Kashmir standing Buddha in the Cleveland Museum of Art shows similar signs of wear as a result of ritual worship in India before it too was taken to Tibet, where it entered the collection of the royal monk Nagaraja (988-1026).
1 Ulrich von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, p. 85, pl. 6E
2 David Weldon, “Two Bronzes from the Western Himalayas Revisited,” Orientations, June 2011, pp. 67-71