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

🛈 In line with NSW Health advice, the Art Gallery is temporarily closed to the public. Stay updated on our social media.

Title

Kalachakra and Vishvamata

14th century

Artists

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
    Tibet
    Date
    14th century
    Media category
    Sculpture
    Materials used
    bronze, gold leaf, gemstones
    Dimensions
    29.8 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Credit
    Purchased with the assistance of the Asian Collection Benefactors and VisAsia 2005
    Location
    Not on display
    Accession number
    7.2005
    Copyright

    Reproduction requests

    Share
  • 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.

  • Places

    Where the work was made

    Tibet

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 5 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 6 publications

  • Provenance

    Private Collection, 1990s-2002, Switzerland, as published in 'Symbols of Buddhism: Sculpture and painting from India and the Himalayas', Rossi & Rossi, London, 2002, cat no. 7.

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