Himalayan Art Resources item no. 13601.
Paintings from this series were first published, and recognized as masterpieces of early Tibetan art, by Robert Burawoy in his seminal exhibition catalogue Peintures du monastère de Nor, Paris, 1978, which featured four of the mandalas. Paintings from the set are now preserved in private and museum collections worldwide, including the Guhyasamaja mandala in the Margot and Tom Pritzker Collection, see Pratapaditya Pal, Tibet: Tradition and Change, Albuquerque, 1997, p. 146, pl. 73; the Jnanadakini mandala in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, see Steven M. Kossak and Jane Casey Singer, Sacred Visions, New York, 1999, p. 163, cat. 46; the Nairatmya mandala in The Cleveland Museum of Art, acc. no. 1993.4; and the Vajradhatu mandala in a private collection, see Jane Casey, Naman Ahuja, David Weldon, Divine Presence, Barcelona, 2003, p. 148, cat. no. 48. For others in the series and further discussion on the historical importance of the paintings see Pratapaditya Pal, Tibetan Paintings, Basel, 1984, pls. 29-31; Amy Heller “The Vajravali Mandala of Shalu and Sakya: The Legacy of Buton (1290-1364)” in Orientations, Hong Kong, May 2003, pp. 69-73; and Jeff Watt, himalayanart.org, set no. 2083, where Watt suggests the paintings may have been dedicated to Lama Dampa Sonam Gyaltsen by his devoted student Chen-nga Chenpo (1310-1370). The series may thus have been commissioned around the time of Chen-nga Chenpo’s demise in 1370, or possibly around 1380 as a memorial to Lama Dampa. For further study of this Hevajra mandala see Jeff Watt, himalayanart.org, no. 13601.
The series represents perhaps the finest of all mandala painting from Tibet in the fourteenth century. Each mandala is designed and painted with the same exquisite attention to detail and vibrant palette. While the overall format and dimension of the paintings remain the same throughout the series, the shape and size of the inner palace expands or contracts depending on the iconographic complexity of each focal deity and the extent of their retinue. The artist of the Hevajra mandala had to extend the corners of the palace walls to the outer limit of the ring of lotus petals to accommodate the five individual chambers within the palace grounds, which in turn compresses the arches of the vishvavajra gates, cf. the more voluminous vajra arches and compact palace grounds of the Jnanadakini mandala in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, see Kossak and Casey Singer, op. cit., p. 163, cat. 46. The gates of the Hevajra mandala are given added mass with double vajra prongs emerging from twin makara heads on each side of the gates: the majority of the mandalas in the series have only one makara head and vajra prong at each side, with a further exception of the Chakrasamvara in a private collection, see Jeff Watt, himalayanart.org, no. 77204, that also has twin vajra prongs and makara heads. The resulting composition fills the inner ground of the mandala palace leaving little empty space in one of the most dynamic and aesthetically pleasing of all the paintings in the set. The format of a ring of multi-coloured lotus petals and flames, the circle of charnel grounds and the surrounding scrolling vine supporting deities and monks against a flower-strewn blue background is consistent throughout the series, as is the painted floral border to either side: albeit in some of the mandalas, such as the Metropolitan Museum’s Jnanadakini, the scenes in the charnel ground are painted against a black ground, and others, like the Hevajra, have a light blue setting. The linear format of the upper and lower registers, depicting deities and religious figures on lotus pedestals beneath lobed arches, remains the same throughout the series: the presiding monk and altar table however can be placed at either end of the lower register.
Although the Hevajra is a Tibetan Sakya order work, the painting style is Nepalese and it is most likely to have been done by a Newar artist. Nepalese artists were working for Sakya patrons since at least the thirteenth century, when Aniko (1245-1306) travelled from Nepal to fulfil a commission for the Sakya hierarch Phags-pa (1235-1280). In the fifteenth century, as David Jackson reveals, Kunga Zangpo (1382-1456), who founded the Sakya order Ngor monastery in 1429, commissioned itinerant Newar artists to paint a series of Vajravali mandalas, see David Jackson, A History of Tibetan Painting, Wien, 1996, p. 78. Compare the style and movement of the Hevajra mandala’s dancing goddesses and figures in the charnel grounds with the vignettes of the thirteenth century Sakya order Virupa in the Kronos Collection painted in the Nepalese style, see Kossak and Casey Singer, op. cit, p. 136, cat. 35; and the stylistic provenance in a contemporaneous Vasudhara mandala, formerly in the Stuart Cary Welch Collection, painted by the Newar artist Jasaraja Jirili in 1365 for Nepalese patrons in the Kathmandu Valley, see Sotheby’s London 31 May 2011, lot 84; compare also figures within scrolling vine on a flower-strewn background of the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century Nepalese Chandra mandala formerly in the Jucker Collection, see Sotheby’s New York, March 28, 2006, lot 3; and compare the format and style preserved in fifteenth century Ngor monastery Vajravali mandalas documented as the work of Newar artists, see Kossak and Casey Singer, op. cit, p. 165-71, cat. 47.
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