02. Tara 度母

Nepal 尼泊尔
11th/12th Century
Gilt-copper alloy
Height: 21 5/8 in. (54.9 cm.)

Henry H. Getty Collection (before 1914)
Bellerby Collection, 1956
Asian Private Collection
Christie’s, New York, October 17, 2001, no. 65, illus.
European Private Collection

Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, 1914, pl. XXXVIII (illustrated with later base and mandorla)
Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, 1928 (Second Edition), pl. XXXVIII (illustrated with later base)
Berkeley Galleries London, The Art of Tibet, exhibition catalogue, January-February, 1946, cat. no. 49
Casey, N.P. Ahuja, and D. Weldon, Divine Presence: Arts of India and the Himalayas, Barcelona, 2003, no. 30

The gracefully-modelled figure of the goddess stands in tribhanga with her right hand lowered in varada mudra and holding a gem and her left hand holding the stem of a lotus flower rising to her shoulder. The hint of a diaphanous scarf, indicated by subtle engraved lines, covers her upper torso, while the lower garment is secured at the waist with a jeweled belt and fashioned from an elaborately-patterned (and more opaque) fabric. Behind a large diadem, her hair is drawn into a complex coiffure secured with gem-set ornaments and cascades to her shoulders in tresses of curls.

Tara, here in her form as the 'White Tara' bearing an open lotus blossom, is believed to be born from the eye of Avalokitesvara. She represents compassion, transcendent knowledge, and perfect purity. The present example is noteworthy for its commanding and regal presence.

Early Nepalese bronze figures of this size and importance are extremely rare.  Apart from the Dr. Albert Shelton collection at the Newark Museum, acquired in 1911, it is one of the earliest documented pieces of important Himalayan sculpture in a private collection prior to World War I, when it was published by Alice Getty in her seminal work, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, in 1914 as part of the Henry H. Getty Collection.

Compare to a gilt copper figure of Vasudhara in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, in P. Pal, Art of Nepal, 1985, p. 101, with similar bejeweled tiara, armlets, and pendants. The voluptuous modeling is closely related and would suggest a similar circa 11th century date.