A thangka from an Avadanakalpalata set Central Tibet, 18th/19th century

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Lot 8
A thangka from an Avadanakalpalata set
Central Tibet, 18th/19th century

Sold for US$ 18,750 inc. premium
A thangka from an Avadanakalpalata set
Central Tibet, 18th/19th century
Distemper on cloth; Shakyamuni gazes out from the center of a dynamic landscape filled with descriptive gold inscriptions and narratives.
Image: 36 x 22 5/8 in. (91.5 x 57.5 cm); With silks: 59 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (151.1 x 80.1 cm)

Footnotes

  • 西藏中部 十八/十九世紀 譬喻集唐卡組畫之一

    This thangka belongs to a set illustrating the 108 stories of the Bodhisattvavadanakalpalata. Stylistically, it exemplifies the Lhasa court style of Tsang province, which places a large primary subject at the center of a lively asymmetrical landscape filled with compartmentalized narratives.

    Derived from woodblock prints produced at Narthong monastery, three near-identical compositions from similar sets are held in The Palace Museum in Beijing, the former collection of Baron von Stael-Holstein, Beijing, and Tibet House, New Delhi. (See Zangchuan Fojiao Tangka-Gugong Bowuyuan Cang Wenwu Zhenpin Quanji, Hong Kong, 2006, p.70, no.61; Gordon, The Iconography of Tibetan Lamaism, New York, 1972, pl.5-R; and www.himalayanart.org/items/72018, respectively).

    The Bodhisattvavadanakalpalata was composed by the 11th-century Kashmiri poet Kshemendra and his son. Drawing inspiration from the ancient Jataka Tales, the moralistic poem recounts the wise and compassionate deeds of Buddha throughout his many lives as a bodhisattva. Each episode is underscored by the practice of the 'six perfections': giving, moral practice, patience, effort, meditation, and wisdom.

    This thangka depicts stories 13 to 16. Starting in the bottom right corner and working clockwise, we first see the story of the Yaskshini Haritaka. Here, the Holy One, by hiding her only child from her, teaches the child-eating ogress Hariti the pain she causes others, prompting her to repent. Within the thangka, we see related episodes such as the community of Rajagriha appealing to Buddha; Hariti and her son, Priyamkara, talking to Buddha holding the alms bowl in which he hides Priyamkara; Hariti frantically searching for her son amongst the oceans, mountains, continents, and heavens.

    The bottom left corner depicts the Performance of Miracles, wherein Buddha multiplies his form, spreading his pure light for the good of all beings. Six bare-chested Indian religious masters, who tried to goad Buddha into a contest of miraculous powers, are seated on a wooden throne witnessing the Buddha's lotus-borne multiplication (See lot 80 for more information). Below this, Vajrapani chases the Indian masters away.

    In the top left corner, we see the Descent from Heaven, where Shakyamuni, Brahma, and Shakra travel down a ladder made of gold, lapis lazuli, and silver from the heavens where Shakyamuni has preached the dharma to the gods. He is seen again seated amongst the people of Samkashya, recounting the merits of the nun Utpalavarna, who attends.

    In the top right corner, we see the Destruction of the Boulder, in which Buddha picks up a boulder that the best athletes of Kusha could not lift, and blows it into dust, preaching the concept of 'emptiness' (sunyata). At the top, Buddha tosses the boulder to the heaven of Brahma. For a translation of the Bodhisattvavadanakalpalata, see Black (trans.), Leaves of the Heaven Tree, Berkeley, 1997, pp. 62-81.

    The thangka's reverse bears mantras of blessing in Sanskrit using Tibetan script: om sarv vidy svaha // om vajra ayushe svaha. Additionally, the three letters "om, ah, hum," are placed vertically behind the central Buddha at the level of body, speech, and mind.

    Referenced:
    HAR - himalayanart.org/items/31531

    Provenance:
    Private Danish Collection, acquired in Nepal, 1966
Contacts
A thangka from an Avadanakalpalata set Central Tibet, 18th/19th century
A thangka from an Avadanakalpalata set Central Tibet, 18th/19th century
A thangka from an Avadanakalpalata set Central Tibet, 18th/19th century
A thangka from an Avadanakalpalata set Central Tibet, 18th/19th century
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