A Black-ground thangka of Vajrabhairava
Tibet, 17th/18th century
Distemper and gold on cloth; with nine faces, thirty-four hands and sixteen legs. The main face is that of a buffalo, with a red face above and the slightly fierce face of Manjushri placed on top; flames swirl about the tips of the two horns. The three faces to the right and three faces to the left are stacked one above the other along each side. Each face has three large glaring eyes, bared fangs and a wrathful expression. The yellow hair curls upward like billowing clouds. The radiating hands hold a variety of objects with the last pair located towards the upper back holding the fresh outstretched hide of an elephant. The primary pair of hands hold a curved knife and skullcup held to the heart and embrace the consort Vajravetali. She is adorned with a variety of ornaments and a necklace of fifty heads, and their right legs are bent pressing down on a man, animals and various gods. The left legs are extended straight and press upon various birds and gods; standing above a sun disc and multicolored lotus completely surrounded by the orange flames of pristine awareness.
At the top center is Tsong Khapa with a sword of wisdom and a book upon a lotus blossom at each shoulder. Surrounding the primary figure are twelve smaller representations of a ten-armed Mahakala with consort set within billowing clouds of smoke. 25 x 19 in. (63.5 x 48.2 cm.)