We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Kalachakra and Vishvamata

14th century-15th century


Unknown Artist

Alternate image of Kalachakra and Vishvamata by
Alternate image of Kalachakra and Vishvamata by
Alternate image of Kalachakra and Vishvamata by
  • Details

    Other Title
    Tibetan kalachakra statue
    Alternative title
    Tibetan kalachakra statue
    Place where the work was made
    Lhasa Tibet
    14th century-15th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    bronze, gold leaf, gemstones
    29.8 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Purchased with funds provided by the Asian Art Collection Benefactors and VisAsia 2005
    South Building, lower level 1, Asian Lantern galleries
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    In June 2022, the Art Gallery became aware of claims that this sculpture was illegally removed from Tibet after 1995. It passed through private collections before being purchased by the Art Gallery in 2005. We are working with relevant researchers and authorities to gather further details and determine the appropriate course of action. If you know more about the provenance of this sculpture, or other works in the Art Gallery’s collection, please share your knowledge with us: provenance@ag.nsw.gov.au

    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.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 6 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 8 publications

  • Provenance

    George Ortiz, 1990s-2002, Switzerland

    Jokhang Temple Monastery, 1990s, Lhasa/Tibet, as photographed by Ulrich von Schroeder and published in 'Jokhang. Tibet's most sacred Buddhist temple' Thames & Hudson, 2010, p 267.

    Rossi & Rossi, Feb 2005, London/England, purchased through Rossi & Rossi (art dealership), London by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Feb 2005.