Height: 40.600 cm
H.G. Beasley Bequest
Asia OA 1948.7-16.24
Room 33: Asia
Painted clay figure of Sarvabuddhadakini
19th century AD
In Tibetan Buddhism, dakinis are celestial female beings who possess supernatural wisdom and powers. The Tibetan name literally translates as 'sky-walkers'. They have a ferocious appearance, like many of the Tibetan guardian figures. This 'dakini of all the Buddhas' holds a curved dagger and a skull-cup filled with blood. She tramples on a corpse. These items are emblematic of her power to destroy evil and ignorance.
Tibetan sculptures are largely made of metal or painted clay, such as this example. Unfired clay images built up over a wooden frame or armature are found widely across Buddhist Asia. About one third of the material used in Tibetan clay images is actually other materials, mostly paper. This made the image both lighter and easier to work. Details such as jewellery were made in moulds and then applied to the figure. Many of these clay figures are of very fine workmanship. Large painted clay images were often attached to temple walls with wooden pegs.
Clay has also been used by Tibetan artists to make moulded plaques such as those incorporated into a portable wooden shrine now also in The British Museum.
R. Fisher, Art of Tibet (Thames and Hudson, 1997)