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Six-Armed Mahakala
April 15, 2015

This six-armed form of Mahakala in this dynamic pose is one of the principal protectors of the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism, to which most Mongolians have adhered since the late sixteenth century [...]

Nine Protector Deities
April 8, 2015

This vibrant scroll painting (thangka), teeming with deities and their jeweled and flaming halos, is dedicated to nine wrathful deities particularly important to the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism, with Six-armed Mahakala largest and primary among them [...]

Mahasiddha Kamala, Suvarnadvipa, and Viraya
April 1, 2015

This painting is from a large set depicting the eighty-four great Tantric adepts (mahasiddha) and portrays three of them, including both monastic and lay yogis [...]

Mahasiddha Naropa
March 25, 2015

In this painting the great Tantric adept (mahasiddha) Naropa sits gazing up at a red dakini flying in a dynamic pose in the upper-right corner [...]

Buddha Ratnasambhava with Wealth Deities
March 18, 2015

Ratnasambhava, the buddha that presides over the southern direction, is one of the Buddhas of the Five Families, each associated with a cardinal direction [...]

Buddha Shakyamuni
March 11, 2015

This sculpture of the historical Buddha shows him with characteristic lotus wheel marks on his hands and feet, wearing monastic dress, and performing the gesture of touching the earth, a reference to his enlightenment […]

A Glamorous Guide to Long Life
March 4, 2015

The eight-armed goddess Ushnishavijaya resides at the center of this painting inside a richly ornamented stupa. She is one of the three Buddhist deities of long life, along with White Tara and Amitayus. She became popular in Tibet and the Himalayas in the fourteenth century, where she can be found depicted in portable paintings (thangkas), temple murals, and three-dimensional stupas.

In this painting Ushnishavijaya is flanked by the bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara (white) and Vajrapani (blue) as well as two small celestial deities floating on clouds and bathing her in nectar. A small image of Vairochana, the Buddha from which Ushnishavijaya emanates, sits directly above her within a trefoil-arched niche. Four blue protectors stand in the arched base of the stupa, while numerous deities ensconced in scrolling lotus vine roundels are neatly arranged around the stupa.

This painting is among the most beautiful depictions of Ushnishavijaya in the architectural frame of a stupa. The lavish decorative elements offer strong visual appeal—the dense coloration, flowing textiles and floral garlands, sumptuous jewelry, and small blossoms that fill the background. This painting is also important because it reflects the intersection of Tibetan and Nepalese painting styles during the fifteenth century.

— Natasha Kimmet, Curatorial Fellow

The Buffalo Demon Meets His Match
February 25, 2015

This sculpture of the Hindu goddess Durga defeating a buffalo demon is one of the finest examples of Nepalese craftsmanship in the Rubin Museum’s collection. Standing just less than eleven inches high, this sculpture is a visitor and staff favorite. It captures a moment in the legendary story of the goddess. Bent on upsetting the order of the world, the buffalo demon Mahisha declared, “I will be defeated by no man by day or by night!” But what about a woman defeating him at dusk? Durga took on the role of heroine, and with the weapons of her fellow gods, she defeated Mahisha.

This form of Durga has eighteen arms, each holding a ritual implement. Her arms recede from large and long in the front to smaller and shorter as they go backward, creating a feeling of dynamic motion and perspective. Depicted in a warrior stance, Durga’s right leg is supported by a snow lion while her left leg pins down the buffalo demon. The demon is in the process of shape-shifting from his buffalo form into a humanlike form. To add to the dynamism of the object, two of the demon’s minions, with weapons piercing their chests, form a perfect triangle with Durga. The triangle is a common form in this type of art and serves to draw the eye straight up to Durga’s calm, delicate face. ​

— David Rosenberg, Gallery Guide Program Coordinator

Green Tara, Enlightened Female, Protector and Savior
February 17, 2015

The enlightened female Tara (known in Tibetan as Drolma or “she who liberates”) has many forms, represented by different colors. The most popular forms are White Tara and Green Tara, depicted here. It is common for 21 forms of Tara to be represented together. Green Tara is understood in some contexts to be a bodhisattva, on her way to enlightenment, and in other contexts she is seen as a fully enlightened Buddha. She is associated with overcoming all kinds of obstacles. This 13th century sculpture was made in Tibet and shows how important the influence of Indian artistic style was in Tibetan art. Notice the relatively large head, firmly grounded posture, and gentle sense of motion. These traits suggest the qualities of kindness, maternal care, and powerful beauty associated with Tara.​

— Dominique Townsend, Head of Interpretation and Innovation

Kanha, The Great Adept of Indian Tantric Practice
February 10, 2015

This 16th century Tibetan sculpture represents Kanha “the dark-skinned one” who was one of the semi-mythical Indian tantric masters known as the Mahasiddhas (Maha means “great” and siddha means “adept”). Kanha is remembered as a great poet and singer and his life story exemplifies the highs and lows of the Mahsiddhas’ tantric path, an often shocking alternative to the paths of Buddhist monasticism and standard lay practice. Although Kanha was a very successful meditator who experiences numerous mystic visions, he struggled with pride in his tantric achievements and became overwhelmed by anger when he was challenged. Despite ultimately being associated with the failure to bring what he learned through meditation into his daily life, Kanha’s story is widely known and enjoyed in tantric cultures such as Tibet. He is an important link in the Lamdre lineage of the Tibetan Buddhist Sakya tradition.

— Dominique Townsend, Head of Interpretation and Innovation