This Thangka is a perfect archetype image of the ecstatic union of wisdom and compassion [see full discussion in the essay "Wisdom and Compassion: The Heart of Tibetan Culture"]. It is, in most respects, the usual Fruitional Emanation Body form of Shamvara, in union with his bright red female wisdom, Vajravarahi. In variation from the usual Shamvara, who has[clockwise from the front] dark blue, yellow, red, and green faces, in this Thangka his front face is storm-cloud blue-black; his right face, white; back face, yellow[seen in two dimensions as behind his left face]; and left face, red [detail, jacket front]. The three eyes of his front face gaze adoringly at the upturned face of his consort and look out cheerfully at us. He is smiling, and his teeth seem to gleam with energy.
His dark blue body is the strongest element in the painting. The sensitive modeling of the shapely limbs and youthful face compels our attention.
The modeling does not follow the dictates of external light; instead, light seems to radiate from the body itself, heightening the muscular shaping and imparting a mildly rounded dimension and substantial reality to the figure. Each implement that Shamvara holds in his hands is portrayed in perfect clarity. His front two arms embrace his consort, the hands holding a vajra scepter and bell while making the diamond HuM-sound gesture. His next right hands hold a damaru drum, a vajra chopper, a trident, and an ax.
His next left hands hold a khatvanga staff, a severed, four-faced Brahma head, a skull bowl, and a lasso. With his back two hands he lifts up the freshly flayed skin of the elephant of ignorance, which spreads behind him like a cape. The customary garlands of skulls and heads and the five skull crowns are also present, and one catches a glimpse of his tiger-skin loincloth.
His partner, Vajravarahi, is beautiful in appearance and expression with a shapely and energetic form. She is an appealing red color, without modeling. Her hair is black and she wears the finest gossamer strands of carved white bone in her girdle, as well as in her bracelets and anklets. Shamvara is also delicately adorned with similar light jewelry, whose style seems to descend from the jewelry fashions of Orissan art of the 13th century. From eastern India, this style passes through Nepalese art. This jewelry style is but one of a number of features this tangka has in common with Nepalese art, another being the stunning modeling style noted earlier.
A flame halo with a background of red on red is rimmed by large flames shaded vividly with orange, pink, and yellow, each flicker outlined in dark red. The pedestal has an orange surface that represents the solar disc of spiritual energy. Delicately shimmering transparent planes and yellow, light blue, orange, and lava form the intricately detailed lotus a pedestal base. A border of rose red gold-lined flowers completes the Thangka. The artist's black line drawing of a pattern that appears in the upper margin was originally covered by the cloth frame, but revealed when this was removed.
Continuing the predominating pale tonality accented with bright color of Sakya lamas line the lower sides and bottom around the main central penal and Mahasiddhas line the upper sites and top. Two large and two small lamas are seen to left and right above the deities´ encompassing halo. A monk kneeling in worship before the deity in the lower left corner is probably the donor. Jambhala god of wealth, sits next to him, with his jewel-spouting mongoose.
Each of these figures sits under a trefoil-arched shrine with a red interior and elaborate pillars typical of paintings of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The drapery of these small figures is remarkably loose and free, in the Chinese mode, although this his become thoroughly assimilated as a Tibetan style. Similarities with the sophisticated styles seen in the Kumbum monastery of Gyantse of earlier date suggest a similar regional affiliation for this elegant Thangka.
Father-Mother [Variant Face Style]
Original: Central Regions, Tibet; probably Tsang,
Late 15th to early 16th century
Tangka; gouache on cotton
24 x 18" [61 x 45.8 cm]
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth Private Collection
Published in "Wisdom and compassion – The sacred art of Tibet from Marylin M. Rhie and Robert A. F. Thurman in association with Harry N. Abrahams, Inc., Publisher", Page 220
|14.2 x 16.9" | 36 x 43 cm
|Parcel Service from Germany or Nepal
|Natural Stone Colors