Serpent King (Nagaraja) (Primary Title)

Unknown (Artist)

15th–16th century
Tibetan or Nepalese
gilded copper alloy, gemstones
Central Tibet or Nepal
Overall: 14 × 13 × 4 1/2 in. (35.56 × 33.02 × 11.43 cm)
This dynamic image of a serpent king, or nagaraja, was probably once part of a much larger composition. Shown in a pose of adoration, he was likely positioned at the base of a large Buddha image or reliquary stupa in a Nepalese or Tibetan monastery. At once kneeling and floating in air, he raises his hands in supplication, ready to offer up the treasures of the earth and its waters. Richly gilded and studded with gemstones, a multiheaded cobra hood emerges from behind his crown. The style of this image is associated with the great monastery at Densatil in south-central Tibet, where a group of highly elaborate reliquaries was built between the 13th and 17th centuries. The gilded copper images and friezes of these stupas, destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, resemble Nepalese products of roughly the same period and were probably sculpted by Nepalese craftsmen working in Tibet.
Berthe and John Ford Collection, gift of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation
2018: Collecting for the Commonwealth Preserving for the Nation, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1919-2018, Winter Antiques Show, Park Avenue Armory, New York City, NY, January 18 - 26, 2018.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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