Vajradhara with Eighty-Five Great Tantric Adepts

Rubin Museum of Art

Rubin Museum of Art

An elaborately crowned Vajradhara, primordial guru of Tantric lineages, sits in the center of the composition surrounded by the eighty-five great tantric adepts (mahasiddha), the exemplary practitioners of those teachings. Each of these adepts is engaged in a different activity and is identified by an inscription, following the verse eulogy attributed to the Indian master Vajrasana (about 1100). An interesting feature of this painting is the large number of adepts shown in strenuous yogic poses. Vajradhara is seated on an elaborate throne with wide pillars and adorned with multicolored scrolling sea monster (makara) tails. Such features identify it as art of the ancient kingdom of Guge in western Tibet.

The back of the painting features a stupa with a number of atypical features. Windows are found on both the base and the square section on top of the dome (harmika). The dome also has some odd details, including a niche and decorative eyes. The chains with bells and the representations of the crescent moon and the sun, although common symbols that stand for eternity, are particularly remarkable here for their large size and unusual depiction.

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  • Title: Vajradhara with Eighty-Five Great Tantric Adepts
  • Date: 16th century
  • Date Created: 16th century
  • Physical Dimensions: 36.25 x 24.75 in.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Rubin Museum of Art, Gift of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, F1998.17.3
  • Medium: Pigments on cloth
  • Place of Creation: Western Tibet
  • Exhibition History: Rubin Museum of Art, "Collecting Paradise: Buddhist Art of Kashmir and its Legacies " (05/22/15 - 10/19/15), Block Museum, Evanston, IL, "Kashmir" (01/13/15 - 04/19/15), Rubin Museum of Art, "Flip Side: The Unseen in Tibetan Art" (03/15/13 - 02/10/14), Rubin Museum of Art, "What is it? Himalayan Art" (06/25/07 - 06/14/10), Rubin Museum of Art, "Holy Madness: Portrait of Tantric Siddhas" (02/11/06 - 09/03/06), Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, for study purposes by Rob Linrothe and class (01/10/05 - 04/19/05), Tibet House Cultural Center, New York, NY, "Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion" (04/27/99 - 09/25/99)

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