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A PAINTING OF VAISHRAVANA
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE HONOLULU COLLECTION
A PAINTING OF VAISHRAVANA

TIBETO-CHINESE, 18TH CENTURY

Details
A PAINTING OF VAISHRAVANA
TIBETO-CHINESE, 18TH CENTURY
Image 40 ¾ x 24 1/8 in. (103.5 x 61.4 cm.)
Provenance
Sotheby's New York, 23 March 2000, lot 69

Lot Essay

The present painting depicts Vaishravana, one of the four Guardian Kings or Dharma Protectors, identified by his armored garb and his attributes, the bannered staff and jewel-spilling mongoose. Each of the four Guardian Kings are associated with a cardinal direction, and are tasked with protecting the Buddhist faith; Vaishravana is associated with the north, and is considered the chief Guardian King. His iconography is partially descended from the Hindu wealth deity, Kubera, and in some contexts within Tibetan art, Vaishravana is also considered to be a god of wealth and prosperity. The present painting, however, is more likely to be part of a larger set of paintings depicting Shakyamuni Buddha, the Sixteen Great Arhats, the two lay attendents Dharmatala and Hvashang, and the four Guardian Kings. Such sets were common throughout the history of Buddhism in both China and Tibet.
While Tibetan painting styles of the seventeenth and eighteenth century increasingly incorporated elements of Chinese landscape painting, resulting in an original multilayered composition, the present work follows more traditional Chinese representations of Buddhist figures in a landscape. Vaishravana stands on a rocky crag looking out on a sea that extends into the far distance, with jagged peaks rising from the water, their outlines rendered in hues of blue and green in the traditional Chinese manner. The sky is unpainted, utilizing the raw silk, another feature common to Chinese landscape painting, and the deity is flanked by a blossoming peach tree and shoots of bamboo.
Compare the present work with a painting of Virupaksha, dated to the Qing dynasty, illustrated by Mei Ninghua and Tao Xincheng in Gems of Beijing Cultural Relic Series – Buddhist Statues II, Beijing, 2003, p. 248, no. 206; in particular, the armor and aureole of flames are rendered similarly in both paintings. The overall composition of the Beijing painting mirrors the present example: Virupaksha stands within a traditional Chinese landscape, flanked by shoots of bamboo and a gnarled pine tree in a manner comparable to the present example.

Himalayan Art Resources (himalayanart.org), item no. 24467.

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