Buddhakapala (Tib: Sangs.rgyas.thod.pa) is a terrifying emanation of the dhyani Buddha Akshobhya and sometimes considered a form of Heruka and then related to the Hevajra cyclus. When together with his female partner Citrasena they can form the centre couple of a mandala.
Stylistically this extremely rare deity seems to be related to sculptures from the Tibetan Densatil monastery, founded in the twelfth century. The complex was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural revolution in the mid-sixties to mid-seventies of last century. Since then many gilt-bronzes have found their way to the West. Many of them date from the late fourteenth century, like the presented one, when the artistic activities had reached their zenith. Most probably Newari craftsmen were involved next to their Tibetan colleagues. A sumptuous use of semi-precious stone inlay is one of the characteristics of icons from this monastery. The Buddhakapala is inlaid with semi-precious stones of which many are still remaining. Extremely rare are the minute pearled strings attached to his crown that survived man and time.
Buddhakapala is depicted in L. Chandra, Buddhist Iconography, New Delhi 1988, vol. 1. No. 994. A gilt-bronze guardian stemming from the Densatil monastery is published by A. Heller in Tibetan Art, Milan 1999, pl. 82.
Such representations of Buddhakapala are very rare and no other Tibetan gilt-bronze figure of the divinity appears to have been sold through auction. For a comparable feeling in terms of sensibility, achievement and strength, see a gilt-bronze figure of Vajravarahi from Densatil, dated 14th century and sold in our New York Rooms, 20 September 2006, lot 130.