Vajrapani, ink and colours on silk


British Museum

British Museum

This painting is an excellent example of the calligraphic painting style that dominated the art of Dunhuang during the Tang dynasty (AD 618-906). The figure of the bodhisattva, grasping a thunderbolt, or vajra in his left hand, bursts into the narrow picture frame, his speed indicated by the cloud rising above his head. His clenched fist, bulging muscles and exaggerated facial features make clear his fearsome nature as a guardian of the Buddha's law.The black brushstrokes vary in thickness and end in sudden hooks, and the long, thick hair that falls over the shoulders is contrasted with the thin lines of the beard. The figure's clothing and scarves also fly in all directions.This style for potraying guardians originated in Central China and had a far-reaching influence, also appearing in Japan.

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  • Title: Vajrapani, ink and colours on silk
  • Date Created: 851/900
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 82.00cm (Painted image); Width: 29.20cm (Painted image); Height: 91.50cm (Painting in mount); Width: 58.00cm (Painting in mount)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Subject: vajra; bodhisattva
  • Registration number: 1919,0101,0.132
  • 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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