10. Maitreya
(cat.pl. 13)
c, 11th-12th centuries
Copper with traces of pigment
h. 37cm


This elegant standing figure represents the bodhisattva Maitreya, whose identifying attributes are the stupa, which appears in his headdress, and the water vessel (kalasa), which he holds in his left hand. He wears the jewel accoutrements of a bodhisattva: crown, earrings, necklace, armlets and bracelets. An antelope skin drapes over his left shoulder, next to the sacred thread (upavita) which follows the contours of his torso and loops over and then under a sash slung low over his hips.

The creator of this work, like the makers of the three previous images (pls. 10, 11 and 12), was well acquainted with the sculptural traditions of Nepal. In common with these other works, however, this figure exhibits features that are not typical of Kathmandu Valley sculpture. To cite one example: the lozenge-shaped design on the dhoti, while a common feature in Newar sculpture, almost always appears together with other motifs, as part of a more complex textile pattern. 189 Moreover, Kathmandu Valley metal sculpture is almost invariably gilded. Apparent exceptions, like the Ardhanarisvara in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,190 are mostly the result of corrosion through burial or damage by fire; this image shows no signs of either-it is simply ungilded.

Damage to the statue at an undetermined time displaced the right hand backwards and moved the right arm slightly in towards the body, affecting the line of the sculpture. Over and above this damage, there is a certain awkwardness in the stance and a somewhat cursory execution of detail which also suggest a provenance outside the Kathmandu Valley. The neck, face and hair show traces of ground and pigment, certainly indications that the image once belonged to Tibetan Buddhists, although these traces are inconclusive as evidence of the place of manufacture. The primary inspiration for this image lies in Nepalese art before the thirteenth century. The decorative elements show a restraint that would not be present in Nepalese or Nepalese-inspired sculpture after c. 1200. A c. eleventh- or twelfth century date and a Tibetan provenance would therefore seem appropriate, bearing in mind the unlikelihood of Buddhist commissions in Tibet between the second half of the ninth and the end of the tenth centuries. (cat.pl. 13)

189. Compare a gilt copper repouss� Visnu in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, dated 983 and published in Pal (1985), p. 94.
190. Published in Pal (1985), p. 47.

images © Nyingjei Lam
text © D. Weldon, Jane C. Singer