While metals are the medium of choice of Nepalese sculptors, some works in this section are fashioned from wood. Artisans in the valley also work with bone, unfired clay, and stucco. Traditionally these sculptures have been used as entrances, beams, and brackets in monasteries. They make it a point to paint, gild, and/or encrust the surfaces of the sculptures produced, lending to the works a signature aesthetic appeal. Sculptures that lend themselves to polychromy (the Nepalese have a thing for bright colours) are painted in vibrant yet liturgically prescribed colours.
In cases of gilding, the skin is painted cold gold (molten gold mixed with gelatin or mercury), with the eyes and the mouth painted on. Some of our pieces are strategically inlaid with intense colours. Another surface technique atypical of Nepalese sculpture is encrusting with semi-precious stones such as turquoises, agates, crystals, and carnelians. These add texture and sumptuousness to the works in question. Fine examples of Nepalese repousse have also been handpicked to include in this section, the beauty and intricacy of which is stunning.
The thing about Nepalese sculptures is that they exude an inner energy. It shines through the relaxed yogasanas the deities are in, the realistic folds of their raiments, and the expressive countenances that characterise the sculptural tradition of Nepal. Such sensitively rendered details, staring from the complex gilding and delicate etchings to the luscious inlays, create astonishingly lifelike figures. Representations of the gurus, mahasiddhas, and arhats are idealised, which gives us an idea of the imaginative prowess and the capacity to express of the artisans who made them.
The Nepalese are not known to conform to realistic portraiture, because in Vajrayana Buddhism 'reality' and 'realism' are essentially meaningless. Consider the example of a wrathful deity, replete with a motley of limbs and heads, violent gestures, ferocious stance. Such a composition, coherent and organic, is alive and potent with a force that could be captured almost exclusively by this great sculptural tradition.
Email a Friend