The Celestial Buddha Ratnasambhava adorned with sumptuous jewelry and clothed in a rainbow patterned dhoti, with right hand in his characteristic gesture of charity, varada mudra, his vehicle the horse beside, seated in vajraparyankasana on a multicolored lotus pedestal, with cushions behind resting against a torana framework with makara above, flanked by standing bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya, a host of bodhisattvas above in attentive postures, a Tibetan lama and seven Confession Buddhas beneath, all bordered with an alternating blue, green and red petal border.
Blanche Christine Olschak and Geshé Thupten Wangyal, Mystic Art of Ancient Tibet, New York, 1973, p. 53.
Pratapaditya Pal, Tibetan Paintings, Basel, 1984, pl. 9.
Hugo E. Kreijger, Tibetan Painting, The Jucker Collection, Boston, 2001, p. 44, no. 8a.
Two important and superbly executed thankas, lots 51 and 52, survive from a larger set of paintings. A third work from the set, now in a private collection, represents Amoghasiddhi and thus confirms that the series commemorates the Five Celestial Buddhas, with those of Vairochana and Amitabha and any accompanying painting now missing; see Pal, 1975, p. 33, no. 11. The artist who created this series of masterpieces was clearly well versed in the palette and modeling traditions of eastern Indian ateliers. Vivid color contrasts and subtle shading give an almost sculptural presence to the Tathagatas and accompanying bodhisattvas. Compare the broad shoulders and narrow waists of the Buddhas with eastern Indian sculpture such as a circa twelfth century Pala stele of the crowned Buddha; see Huntington and Huntington, 1990, pl. 31. And compare the rich palette with eastern Indian manuscript illuminations; see ibid, pls. 57-60. The Jucker paintings differ from other sets of Tathagatas by presenting each Transcendental Buddha in the same golden hue, rather than in their individual iconographic colours. Compare another thirteenth century set of Tathagata paintings with striking similarities in format and detail such as their virtually identical jewelry, the two sets differing only significantly in the iconography of the lower registers, the inclusion of a framework for the throne cushion and the iconographical color of the principal deities; see Kossak and Casey Singer, 1999, pp. 104-8, nos. 23 a, b, c. Both Jucker paintings are similarly rendered but for the mudras of the Tathagatas, their vahana, the choice of mythical beings in the torana and the dress and posture of the attendant bodhisattvas. The same presiding lama appears in each, as he does in the third painting in the series, the Amoghasiddhi in the private collection.
Early Tathagata paintings with their commanding figures of bejeweled Transcendental Buddhas are amongst the most evocative images from Tibet. The tradition for the commissioning of such sets of paintings was confined to the early period and examples such as these two important thankas, evoking an otherworldliness with their sense of serenity and calm, remain defining icons of this inspired period in the history of Tibetan art.
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