Purnabhadra, King of Vaishravana's Attendants

Artist/maker unknown, Central Tibetan or Chinese

Geography:
Probably made in central Tibet, Tibet, Asia
or made in China, Asia

Date:
c. Late 15th or early 16th century

Medium:
Mercury gilded copper alloy inlaid with turquoise

Dimensions:
8 1/4 × 6 3/4 × 3 1/2 inches (21 × 17.1 × 8.9 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
2001-44-1

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Gift of Hannah L. and J. Welles Henderson, 2001

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Label:
Purnabhadra, whose name means “He Who Is Replete with Goodness,” is the king of a group of wealth guardians called yakshas and an attendant to Vaishravana, Guardian of the North, Protector of Wealth and Buddhist teachings. Purnabhadra holds a vase brimming with jewels and an obese mongoose with eight auspicious items spilling from its mouth. The mongoose represents wealth both because it preys on snakes—the traditional custodians of wealth— and because mongoose pelts were once used to make money bags.

Additional information:
  • PublicationGifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Purnabhadra (Abundant Good) is a king of the yakshas, who, in Buddhism, are the eight attendants of Vaishravana, the lord of wealth and guardian of the Buddhist teachings. Purnabhadra carries in his right hand a water pot brimming with foliage, an ancient symbol of abundance and prosperity. In his left hand he clutches Vaishravana’s common attribute, the mongoose vomiting precious jewels. He is outfitted as a Chinese warlord with mustache, pointed-toe boots, and a helmet in the form of a makara, a crocodilian sea creature. Purnabhadra rides a proud horse on whose long nose rests a giant gem. The horse prances upon golden swirls of clouds, seemingly unsupported above the lotus-flower base.

    This sculpture, which is fully gilded and inset with cabochon-cut turquoises, may have been made in Tibet proper or in more northerly parts of China. It is of a type often called Sino-Tibetan, since during this period artistic forms and Buddhist beliefs were shared across the region. The elegance of the modeling together with the imaginative and finely cast details makes this work a masterpiece of Sino-Tibetan metalwork. The image and base reinforce a dating to the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, making it the earliest Sino-Tibetan piece in the Museum’s collection. The superb workmanship enhances appreciation of this significant convergence of artistic form in Tibet and China. Darielle Mason, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), p. 12.