7. Amoghapasa
(cat. pl. 9)
c. 8th-9th centuries
Copper with traces of gilding and pigment
h. 31.5cm


This sculpture epitomizes the classical beauty of Licchavi period (c. AD 300-879) art in Nepal. Amoghapasa's graceful posture (tribhanga) and gentle countenance are exquisitely rendered. Ornament is pared to the minimum to allow for the cleanest line. The sacred thread (upavita), antelope skin and scarf fall naturally over the god's youthful, sensuous form. The fan-like arrangement of Amoghapasa's twelve arms, forming a halo around his body, is a tour de force of casting. This figure, like most Nepalese sculpture, is made of unalloyed copper, a metal that is notoriously problematic in the cast. Unfortunately, the arms have suffered damage over the years and almost all are now displaced, somewhat weakening his beautiful composition.91

Amoghapasa is particularly popular in Nepal and is only rarely encountered in Tibet.92 However, this image has been worshipped in Tibet for an indeterminate period, as confirmed by the presence of traces of gold paint on the face and neck and blue pigment in the hair; the practice of applying paint to images in this manner is unknown in Nepal. This work may be compared with other classical Licchavi metal sculpture from Nepal, most notably an eighth- or ninth-century standing Buddha, formerly in the now destroyed Ngor monastery. 93 Their very similar facial expressions and sense of movement are those that define the art of the Licchavi period. The pronounced webbing between the fingers, seen here especially between the thumb and forefinger, is an iconographic feature that appears throughout the Licchavi period, but loses prominence by the start of the Malla (c. 1200-1482). A pronounced nose and protruding lower lip are standard sculptural features of this period; they are ultimately derived, like the webbed fingers, from the ideals of the great artistic era of the Indian Gupta kings. (cat. pl. 9)

91. The image is cast in one piece and would have originally been entirely fire-gilt.
92. See Slusser (1982), p. 293; Pal (1966) and (1967).
93. Published in Schroeder (1981), fig. 76E. Earlier Licchavi period works show greater ties with Gupta period images. See Schroeder (1981), figs. 74A-G.

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