Copper alloy; 8 1/16 in. (20.5 cm)
Lent by The Kronos Collections (L.1993.51.5)
This elegant sculpture is one of the earliest and finest Nepalese metal sculptures known. It can be identified as the Bodhisattva Vajrapani by the symbolic thunderbolt (vajra) he holds in his left hand; his right hand once held a small object, possibly a lotus bud or a fruit. Vajrapani is an embodiment of the wisdom-component of enlightenment (the other component being compassion) and his vajra represents the diamond-like nature of the Buddhist doctrine. Modeled with refinement and sensitivity, this image also has an almost total lack of surface decoration that enhances its regal presence and shows its debt to Indian Gupta-period models. Unlike later heavily ornamented bodhisattvas, this image of Vajrapani wears only a simple miter-shaped tiara, small earrings, a diagonal sash, and a type of skirt known as a dhoti. The dhoti is shown tied at the waist but, interestingly, there are no other indications of it; the lower hemline is not delineated, nor is the cloth patterned. It is possible, however, that these details were originally painted on the sculpture.