Bronze with gilding, pigment, and semiprecious stones
Overall: 62 cm (24 7/16 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1976.3
Venerated by Buddhists across the world as the perfect embodiment of compassion for all beings, this bodhisattva-a being only one stage away from complete enlightenment-holds his right hand out gently in the gesture of gift-giving. In his left hand, he once grasped the stem of a lotus flower that blossoms over his left shoulder, indicative of the abundant benefits that result from acts of loving kindness.
All bodhisattvas wear royal garments and jewels, in reference to the historical Buddha’s early life as a prince, prior to his achievement of enlightenment through meditations in the forest. In the center of his crown is the tiny seated image of the meditating Buddha Amitabha that identifies this figure as Avalokitesvara specifically.
Nepalese bronzes of the 11th century are solid cast and have an exceptionally high copper content in the alloy that makes the bronze difficult to manage during fabrication. The color achieved by the extra copper creates a distinctive warmth and softness in the sculpture.
The flexed toes of the right foot and the swinging to one side of the gathered ends of his garment impart a sense of dynamism to his ongoing act of giving. His facial expression is sweet and placid but sharp, as though he is keenly aware of the sufferings of the world.
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