The Tibetan and Nepalese iconography developed the most frightening characteristics to show Vajrabhairava, who can have up to 9 faces, 34 hands and 16 legs. One of the two main hands plants a knife in a skull-cup held by the other main hand. At the top of the tiara, the less wrathful figure of Manjushri softens the game while recalling that this horror is only a secondary emanation of the bodhisattva's meditation.
The gilt bronze offered in Christie's sale in New York on 15 and 16 March is exceptional in its size, 99 cm high, and the wealth of details of the sculpture. It is estimated $ 4M, lot 3203.
Vajrabhairava is standing firmly planted on his two groups of eight legs each. The feet are placed on a stack of two layers of recumbents and animals who raise their heads in contradiction with the illusion of death. The base is a classic double lotus. The deity has its usual buffalo head with its mouth opened on sharp fangs. Various heads complete this terrifying iconography.
This figure is related to Tibetan Buddhism, but from the quality of its realization and its exceptional height it can only come from the Beijing imperial workshops in the first century of the Ming Dynasty, six centuries ago.
The Buddha sold for HK $ 236M including premium by Sotheby's on October 8, 2013 was only 55 cm high but had the Yongle imperial mark.