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Bodhisattva Gandhahastin
14th century

Unidentified, Newar , (Newar (Nepalese),


Gilt copper alloy, turquoise, coral, lapis lazuli
H: 29.1 W: 12.1 D: 6.1 cm
Central Tibet, Central Tibet

Purchase--Friends of Asian Arts and Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program S1995.96

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This crowned Bodhisattva (enlightened being), portrayed as a slender, youthful figure, is an exuberant example of Tibetan metal imagery, which typically combines the Nepalese ideal of bodily form with the local emphasis on the color gold and semiprecious stone inlays.

The sensuous treatment of this figure was inspired by the Indian aesthetic tradition transmitted through Nepal; clues to its Tibetan origin come primarily from the broad facial features. Since Tibetans consider gold the supreme color, they frequently gild their metal images. In this complex process, a mixture of gold and mercury is applied to the image, then the image is heated to the temperature at which the mercury evaporates and the gold adheres to the surface. The Tibetan delight in encrusting the surface of their images with gems is evident in the lavish use of turquoise, coral, and lapis lazuli to adorn this object.