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Title

Kalachakra and Vishvamata


Artists

Unknown Artist


About

This extraordinary sculpture shows the Buddha couple Kalachakra and Vishvamata locked in passionate embrace, lovingly gazing at each other. Both figures are four-headed, with the lips and eyes on each face marked with pigments, lending added naturalism to the sculpture. Typical of Heruka Buddhas, Kalachakra strikes an energetic, lunging pose and Vishvamata mirrors his stance. Both figures wear elaborate jewellery, studded with brilliant blue turquoise and inlaid with semi-precious stones. The delicate festoon of pearls that hangs from Kalachakra’s headdress deserves particular attention.

Kalachakra’s twenty-four hands and Vishvamata’s eight, surrounding the couple like a golden aura, each originally held an attribute. Among the objects that survive in Kalachakra’s hands are the ‘vajra’ and bell, a partially broken sword, a flaying knife, a double-sided pellet drum, the Buddhist wheel, a ‘vajra’-tipped noose, a conch shell and a gem-encrusted jewel. In Kalachakra’s uppermost raised hand dangles the severed head of the four-faced Hindu god Brahma (‘Brahmakapala’). Although seemingly gruesome, this attribute symbolises Kalachakra’s infinite compassion towards all beings (Beer 1999: 309). Vishvamata holds a flaying knife and skull cup in her main hands hidden behind Kalachakra’s neck. Other implements that remain in her additional hands include a noose, a pellet drum, a lotus and a jewel. The figures’ striking pose, the intimacy they share and the dazzling display of arms create a dynamic tour de force.

Chaya Chandrasekhar, ‘Goddess: divine energy’, pg.252.


Details


Alternative title

Tibetan kalachakra statue


Place where the work was made

Tibet


Date

14th century


Media category

Sculpture


Materials used

gilt bronze with inset gems


Dimensions

29.8 cm


Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Credit

Purchased with the assistance of the Asian Collection Benefactors and VisAsia 2005


Accession number

7.2005



Place

Where the work was made
Tibet

Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Referenced in 6 publications

Bibliography


Edmund Capon, Art Gallery of New South Wales: highlights from the collection, Sydney, 2008, 182 (colour illus.).

Chaya Chandrasekhar, Look, 'Kalachakra', pg. 24-27, Sydney, Mar 2006, front cover (colour illus., detail), 24 (colour illus.), 25 (colour illus.), 26-27 (colour illus., detail).

Chaya Chandrasekhar, Goddess: Divine Energy, 'Heruka Buddha couples', pg. 243-255, Sydney, 2006, 252, 253 (colour illus.). cat.no. 158

Susan Owens, The Weekend Australian Financial Review, 'Mystique of the Orient', pg. 31, Sydney, 22 Oct 2005-23 Oct 2005, 31 (colour illus., detail).

Anna Maria Rossi and Fabio Rossi (Editors), Symbols of Buddhism: Sculpture and Painting from India and the Himalayas, London, Mar 2002, (colour illus.). cat.no. 7: private collection, Switzerland

Jill Sykes (Editor), Look, Sydney, Nov 2005, 11 (colour illus., detail).