Vajrasattva and Consort with Gods and Teachers (Primary Title)
thanka (Object Name)

Unknown (Artist)

ca. 1075
opaque watercolor on cloth
Central Tibet
Unframed (by sight): 23 3/4 × 14 in. (60.33 × 35.56 cm)
Framed: 43 1/2 × 24 1/2 in. (110.49 × 62.23 cm)
Based on the identity of its Nyingmapa patron, who is pictures in the lower right corner, scholars have dated this painting to the late 11th century. If correct, this is one of the oldest surviving Tibetan thangkas in the world. It shows Vajrasattva, considered by Tibetan Buddhism’s Nyingma Order as the “knowledge bearer” and intermediary through whom all teachings must pass into the human realm. He warmly embraces his consort, presumably Vajradhatvishvari, who wraps her legs around him from behind, and he holds in his hands the thunderbolt and bell, symbols of compassion and wisdom. Although usually described as white, the couple are oddly colored blue and green, but Vajrasattva is identified by an inscription, like all the deities and teachers that surround the central pair. This thangka’s sinuous forms, simple composition, perfunctory shading, and muted coloration reflect the strong influence that Eastern Indian art associated with the Pala Dynasty (ca. 8th-12th centuries) had on early Central Tibetan painting.
Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Gift of Paul Mellon
Kapstein, Matthew T. “The All-Encompassing Lamp of Awareness: A Forgotten Treasure of the Great Perfection, Its Authorship and Historical Significance.” In "Unearthing Himalayan Treasures: Festschrift for Franz-Karl Ehrhard", edited by Volker Caumanns, Marta Sernesi, and Nikolai Solmsdorf, 259–286, Marburg, Indica Et Tibetica Verlag, 2019. (fig. 10)

Giuseppe Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls (Bangkok, SDI Publications, 1999) p. 331-332, color pl. 1.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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