Eleven-Headed Arya Avalokiteshvara
Artist/maker unknown, Western Tibetan
One of the most popular devotional deities in Himalayan Buddhism, Avalokiteshvara (the Bodhisattva of Compassion) appears in many forms, but this eleven-headed, “thousand-armed” form is one of the most popular. The many heads, eyes, and hands represent the countless ways in which Avalokiteshvara can see, hear, and benefit all sentient beings. This figure is exceptional because two parts of the original multipiece work (the body and the separately cast splay of arms) are preserved together. A third layer of hands originally fanned out at the back of the sculpture to make a complete set of one thousand arms.