, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Enlarge 1 /1

On display on Level 1

Post-Gupta period (6th-8th centuries) Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara c. 700 Place made: northwest India, India
Materials & Technique: sculptures, bronze, silver; lost-wax casting, inlay
Dimensions: 50.0 h x 32.0 w x 14.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1978
Accession No: NGA 78.532
Provenance:
  • The supplied chain of ownership for this object is being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses.
  • exported from Pakistan, 1959 (details to be confirmed)
  • with private collector until 1977 (details to be confirmed)
  • who sold it to art dealership Spink, Zurich, 1977
  • which sold it to the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1978 for USD 375,000

According to Buddhist philosophy, bodhisattvas are compassionate beings who delay their own enlightenment in order to help others attain this ultimate goal of Buddhism. Cast in one piece, this very early multi-armed sculpture depicts Avalokiteshvara, the most prominent of the Buddhist bodhisattvas, and
the bodhisattva of compassion.

This post-Gupta style sculpture is clearly identified as Avalokiteshvara by the iconographic device of the small Buddha figure seated upon his head. The bodhisattva is shown in the straight-standing (sambhanga) pose. His twelve hands display various symbolic attributes and hand gestures (mudras). His compassion and wisdom are indicated, respectively, by the lotus and the small rectangular palm-leaf manuscript, while his hand gestures represent reassurance, adoration and charity. Other attributes include fruit, the ascetic’s water pot and a jewel. With hair gathered in a crown of matted tresses, the bodhisattva wears the simple robes of a wandering ascetic. Open and looking ahead, the bodhisattva’s eyes are inlaid with silver and he has the elongated earlobes that indicate a supernatural Buddhist being.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

According to Buddhist philosophy, bodhisattvas are compassionate beings who delay their own enlightenment in order to help others attain that ultimate goal of Buddhism. Cast in one piece, this very early multi-armed sculpture depicts Avalokiteshvara, the most prominent of the Buddhist saviours, and the bodhisattva of compassion.

The post-Gupta-style sculpture is clearly identified as Avalokiteshvara by the iconographic device of the small Buddha figure seated upon his head. The bodhisattva is shown in the straight-standing (sambhanga) pose. His 12 hands display various symbolic attributes and hand gestures (mudras). His compassion and wisdom are indicated, respectively, by the lotus and the small rectangular palm-leaf manuscript, while his hand gestures represent reassurance, adoration and charity. Other attributes include fruit, the traveller's water pot and a jewel. With hair gathered in a crown of matted tresses, the bodhisattva wears the simple robes of a wandering ascetic. Open and looking ahead, the bodhisattva’s eyes are inlaid with silver and he has the elongated earlobes that indicate a previous life as a richly ornamented prince.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

According to Buddhist philosophy, bodhisattvas are compassionate beings who delay their own enlightenment in order to help others attain this ultimate goal of Buddhism. This very early multi-armed sculpture shows Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, dressed as a wandering ascetic.

The bodhisattva's twelve hands symbolise his various qualities. His compassion and wisdom are indicated respectively by the lotus and the palm-leaf manuscript, while his hand gestures represent reassurance, adoration and charity. The small seated Buddha in this figure's hair clearly identifies him as Avalokiteshvara, the most prominent of the Buddhist bodhisattvas.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label