Vajrapani, ink and colours on a silk banner


British Museum

British Museum

Vajrapani is a Buddhist guardian figure, characteristically shown with a thunderbolt, or vajra to protect Buddha's law.This banner painting is one of the very few from the Mogao caves to survive intact. It has a triangular top and side and tail streamers. A board at the bottom ensured that the painting was stretched out when hung. Such paintings could be viewed from both front and back, as suggested by depictions of banners.In contrast to the painting of the Bodhisattva holding a glass bowl which was executed in very thin, even lines, this painting was executed in calligraphic lines of changing width, well suited to representing the energetic figure, who is barely contained within the narrow frame of the painting. This effect is further emphasised by the addition of the network of red lines, showing the guardian figure's strong muscles.

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  • Title: Vajrapani, ink and colours on a silk banner
  • Date Created: 851/900
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 187.50cm; Width: 18.60cm; Height: 196.00cm (Including hanging attachment); Width: 28.00cm (Including hanging attachment); Depth: 1.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Subject: vajra; bodhisattva
  • Registration number: 1919,0101,0.134
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Qian Fo Dong. Excavated/Findspot
  • Period/culture: Tang dynasty
  • Material: silk
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Collected by Stein, Marc Aurel


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