08. Kapala 骷髅碗

Nepal 尼泊尔
16th Century
Gilt-copper alloy
Height: 10 ¼ in. (26 cm.)

James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection
Sotheby's, New York, March 25th, 1999, no. 12
European Private Collection

Pratapaditya Pal, A Collecting Odyssey: Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian Art: from the James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, Chicago, 1997, pp. 231 & 342, no. 306.
Jeff Watt, Himalayan Art Resources, item no. 33050

This ritual vessel imitates in metal the form of a human skull-cup.  On the wider side of the present example a divine head flanked by two grinning skulls adorns the rim, and a garland hangs immediately below. 

The skull-cup (kapala) is used in tantric ritual practices to represent the transformation of delusion into perfect wisdom, and the present example takes inspiration from ritual kapalas which incorporate the skulls of esteemed monks.  Compare a related example in N. Tingley, Celestial Realms: The Art of Nepal, exhibition catalogue, Sacramento, 2012, pp. 98-9.