Bodhisattva White Avalokiteshvara (Amoghapasha Lokeshvara)

Historical period(s)
early Malla period, Malla dynasty, 14th century
Polychromed wood
H x W x D: 162.5 x 96 x 37 cm (64 x 37 13/16 x 14 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and Sigrid and Vinton Cerf in honor of Dr. Mary Shepherd Slusser
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 02: Body Image: Arts of the Indian Subcontinent


Avalokitesvara, Buddhism, Malla dynasty (1201-1769), Nepal

To 1972
Rossi & Rossi, Ltd., London, to 1972 [1]

From 1972 to 1990
Unidentified collector-dealer (died 1990), Italy and London, purchased from Rossi & Rossi, Ltd. in 1972 [2]

Around 1990 to 1999
Unidentified collector-dealer, purchased though Rossi & Rossi, Ltd., around 1990 [3]

From 1999 to 2000
Rossi & Rossi, Ltd., purchased from the above-mentioned unidentified collector in 1999 [4]

From 2000
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Rossi & Rossi, Ltd. in 2000


[1] According to Curatorial Note 2, Vidya Dehejia, March 28, 2000, in the object record.

[2] In the early 1980s, the unknown collector moved to London, and consigned the object for sale with Michael Godhuis. However, the object remained unsold until after the owner's death in 1990; at which point, Rossi & Rossi, Ltd. was asked to sell the object (see Curatorial Note 2, Vidya Dehejia, March 28, 2000, in the object record). Also, see copy of the Godhuis catalog and other documentation in the object file.

[3] See note 1.

[4] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Rossi & Rossi, Ltd.


Standing poised in the elegant tribhanga (triple-bent) pose, White Avalokiteshvara (literally, The Lord Who Looks down from on High) is a popular guardian deity of the Kathmandu Valley of the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, and pious Buddhists perform a special puja (ritual worship) to him each month. The beauty of the oval face, the sinuous lines of the torso, and the deft addition of paint make a significant statement about the achievement of Himalayan art. The image, which would have been honored within the shrine of a Buddhist monastery, is in exceptional condition considering that as a consecrated figure (X-rays reveal the insertion of a variety of metal objects and prayers that empower it), it frequently received ritual baths.

Carved from a single large piece of wood, the image testifies to Nepalese skill in woodcarving. The wood is from the shal tree (shorea robusta), a tropical hardwood highly resistant to decay and insect damage, and therefore favored by sculptors. Artists covered the figure with a smooth layer of gesso (a fine, white plaster) and painted it in a variety of colors and patterns. Missing today is the inlay of precious stones, a Himalayan specialty, as well as two of the eight additional arms.

Published References
  • Thirty Years 1987-2016. London, England. p. 89, 155.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 110-111, 112-113.
  • Colin Stump. Wisdom of the Mountains: Buddhism of Tibet and the Himalaya. Nottinghamshire, UK. p. 505.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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