Description The future Buddha Maitreya is represented here as a bodhisattva, presumably in Tushita heaven, from where he will descend to earth at the appropriate time. Seated in the meditation posture, his left hand is in his lap, and the right displays the teaching gesture. Two leafy stalks of flowers rise from the lotus base along his arms. A small water pot (kundika) sits on top of the bloom to his left, and the flower on the other side is probably the nagakesara, both of which are emblems of the bodhisattva. Elaborately bejeweled like a bodhisattva, he is distinguished by a crossbelt on his torso with a square clasp in the middle. This is an accouterment that is not usually encountered in Maitreya images but is sometimes seen on mahasiddhas and protective deities. However, it is not inappropriate for a signifier of a hero, which a bodhisattva is. Very likely, the bronze was cast for a patron in Gyantse in Tsang, for it relates stylistically to other versions both in painting and in sculpture, that may be associated with the construction of the famous Kumbum temple in the town during the late fifteenth century. Most Tibetan metal images are hollow and enclose relics and mantras that are then sealed permanently with a plate, which is either left plain or sealed with the thunderbolt motif. This particular Maitreya, however, has a more ambitious plate embellished with etched designs: the double thunderbolt, the eight auspicious symbols of good fortune (ashtamangala) as well as the yang and yin emblems.
- Desire and Devotion: Art from India, Nepal, and Tibet in the John and Berthe Ford Collection. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara; Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham. 2001-2003.
Provenance Kikko, Houston [private gallery] [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; John and Berthe Ford, Baltimore, November 15, 1976, by purchase.
Inscriptions Bottom plate (no writing)
Credit Gift of John and Berthe Ford, 2013
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