Late 11th-early 12th century
Pyrophyllite with gilding and blue pigment
H. 3 3/4 x W. 2 1/8 in. (9.5 x 5.4 cm)
Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.38
This delicately carved image of a goddess making the gesture of teaching was conceived as a work in the round; the back is as complete as the front. It is unclear exactly who is represented as the figure's posture and gesture are used in representations of two of the most important goddesses in Buddhism, Tara and Prajnaparamita. These goddesses can often be distinguished by the different lotuses they hold, but as only fragments of the lotuses remain on this sculpture, the figure's identity remains uncertain. One potential clue in support of an identification of this goddess with Tara is the lotus bud held in her left hand, an attribute seen on some metal images that are identifiably Tara. The gilding and pigment which remain on this image is probably not original but may reflect the original colors. It is likely that the entire image, carved from a creamy stone, was once painted. The use of blue pigment in the hair is commonly seen on images which have been worshipped by Tibetan Buddhists.