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Biblical - Historical - Mythologic
16th century
Material and technique
Miniature on silk
98 x 58 cm
Augusta Monferini
A thangka is a object used by travelling monks for preaching. This panel is well preserved, particularly its bright, vivid colours. The border of dark brocade, interwoven with gold thread representing clouds, conveys a wish of ‘long life’.
The thangka contains an image of Vajrabhairava within a ring of tongues of fire whipped by the wind of divine fury. This is the patron god of the Tibetan Buddhist sect Gelung, surrounded by ten minor figures also set within almond-shaped rings of flame. Depicted here is the terrible wrath of the god, which transforms his face into a mask of menace: the red nose and large white sockets of his three eyes stand out against the dark blue of the face. Above his head are two larger faces, one orange and one bright red, separated by other, smaller faces. The god’s arms are raised and radiate out like two huge blue wings shooting tongues of flame. He stands legs apart, his limbs fanning out in numerous repetitions.
The god is also known as Yamantaka and is the wrathful form of the Buddha Amita or the Bodhisattva Manjuri, also called the Buddha of Wisdom.
The exceedingly bright, violently contrasting colours match the frenzied gestures of the god and other figures and evoke a popular religious culture contaminated by fables and legends, as was Tibetan Buddhism during the Qing Dynasty (after 1644).
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