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On display on Level 1

Malla period (1200-1769) Nepal
Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara 13th century Place made: Kathmandu valley, Nepal
Creation Notes: Early Malla period
Materials & Technique: sculptures, copper, gold-leaf, semi-precious stones; copper, gold-leaf, semi-precious stones
Dimensions: 47.3 h x 17.0 w x 15.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1984
Accession No: NGA 84.1090
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.
  • with art dealer Doris Wiener, New York, before 1973
  • who sold it to Stuart Cary Welch, 18 October 1973
  • who sold it through Doris Wiener Gallery, New York
  • to Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1984 for USD 235,000

The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is the Buddhist embodiment of compassion. He is often portrayed as an elegant and gracious youth. The cult of Avalokiteshvara worship originated in India and spread across Asia, along with other Buddhist philosophies and practices. In some places Avalokiteshvara eclipses the Buddha in importance. Buddhist rulers, such as Prince Shotoku in Japan and the Dalai Lama in Tibet, have been seen as incarnations of this saviour.

In Nepal, Buddhism flourished alongside Hinduism long after the religion had lost favour in India. Although the kings of the Early Malla period who ruled the Kathmandu Valley were Hindu, some of the greatest artistic achievements of the age were Buddhist. This gilt copper figure is adorned with semi-precious stones. The bodhisattva stands in the graceful three-bend pose (tribhanga) and his right hand makes the vitarka mudra, or gesture of discourse. His other hand may have originally held a lotus stem, an attribute associated with Avalokiteshvara. In the Nepalese Buddhist tradition, images such as this were intended to assist with meditation. The fine condition of the sculpture suggests that it might have been stored in a monastery where such images were wrapped in protective robes.


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

The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is the Buddhist embodiment of compassion. He is often portrayed as an elegant and gracious youth. The cult of Avalokiteshvara worship originated in India and spread across Asia, along with other Buddhist philosophies and practices. In some places Avalokiteshvara eclipses the Buddha in importance. Buddhist rulers, such as Prince Shotoku in Japan and the Dalai Lama in Tibet, have been seen as incarnations of this saviour.

In Nepal, Buddhism flourished alongside Hinduism long after the religion had lost favour in India. Although the kings of the Early Malla period who ruled the Kathmandu Valley were Hindu, some of the greatest artistic achievements of the age were Buddhist. This gilt copper figure is adorned with semi-precious stones. The bodhisattva stands in the graceful three-bend pose (tribhanga) and his right hand makes the vitarka mudra, or gesture of discourse. His other hand may have originally held a lotus stem, an attribute associated with Avalokiteshvara. In the Nepalese Buddhist tradition, images such as this were intended to assist with meditation.

The fine condition of the sculpture suggests that it might have been stored in a monastery where such images were wrapped in protective textiles.


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

The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is the Buddhist embodiment of compassion. He is sometimes portrayed as a gracious and elegant youth. The cult of Avalokiteshvara spread from India across Asia, rivalling that of the Buddhas themselves. Buddhist rulers, such as Prince Shotoku in Japan and the Dalai Lama in Tibet, have been seen as incarnations of this saviour.

Buddhism continued to flourish alongside Hinduism in Nepal long after the religion had lost favour in India. Although the kings of the Early Malla period (1200–1482) who ruled the Kathmandu Valley were Hindu, some of the greatest artistic achievements of the age were Buddhist. The fine condition of this sculpture suggests that it might have been stored in a Tibetan monastery where such images were wrapped in protective robes.


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