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An exceptionally rare and important painting of Buddha with the one hundred Jataka tales
An exceptionally rare and important painting of Buddha with the one hundred Jataka tales

TIBET, 13TH/14TH CENTURY

Details
An exceptionally rare and important painting of Buddha with the one hundred Jataka tales
Tibet, 13th/14th century
The Buddha seated in bhumisparshamudra on a multi-colored lotus over a throne supported by two snow lions and a bodhisattva, dressed in rich crimson and gold brocaded robes and holding his beggar's bowl in his lap, flanked by Shariputra to his right and Maudgalyayana to his left and backed by an elaborate throneback with bird-filled branches above, all surrounded by The One Hundred Jataka tales, each annotated with gold text, and the donors at bottom center
Opaque pigments and gold on textile
45 x 33¼ in. (114.3 x 84.4 cm.)
Provenance
Collection of Heidi and Helmut Neumann, Basel, acquired in 1990
Literature
J. Watt, Himalayan Art Resources (himalayanart.org), no. 30907

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Lot Essay

Shariputra and Maudgalyayana were the Buddha's two chief male disciples. Shariputra was, at least on one occasion, declared to be the Buddha's true spiritual son and his chief assistant in turning the Wheel of Dharma, and became renowned for his teaching as an Arhat ("foremost in wisdom"). Maudgalyayana was the most accomplished of all the Buddha's disciples in the various supernormal powers that could be developed through meditation, including being able to use mind-reading for detecting lies from truths, transporting himself from his body into the various realms of existence, and speaking with ghosts and gods. He is traditionally attributed with the ability to walk through walls or on water, fly through the air and move at the speed of light.

The donors at bottom center are identified by inscription; from left, they are Jangchub Dragpa (byang chub Grags pa), Ponpo Sonam Rinchen (dpon po bsod nams rin chen) and Ponpo Sonam Rabten (dpon po bsod nams rab brtan).

As a result of the telling and re-telling over the last millennium of the events and various previous births of Shakyamuni Buddha, there exists hundreds of Jataka tales, some only slightly edited versions of others. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition the vast majority of painted depictions focus on the first thirty-four with additional miscellaneous life stories. This painting is the only one known in which all one hundred Jataka tales are given in one composition. Further, each tale is annotated with an inscription in gold, giving the full name and number sequence in the inscription. They begin at the top center and move clockwise around the figure of the Buddha and two disciples, ending again at the top center (see grayscale image), and are identified as follows:
1. The Tigress
2. King of the Shibis
3. A Small Portion of Gruel
4. The Merchant
5. The Invincible One
6. The Hare
7. Ajastya the Ascetic
8. The Strength of Love
9. Vishvantara
10. The Sacrifice
11. Shakra
12. The Brahman
13. She Who drives Men Mad
14. Suparaga
15. The Fish
16. The Baby Quail
17. The Jar
18. The Wealthy Prince
19. The Lotus Roots
20. The Treasurer
21. The Story of Kuddhabodhi
22. The Noble Geese
23. The Wise One
24. The Great Ape
25. The Fabulous Sharaba Deer
26. The Ruru Deer
27. The Monkey King
28. The Teacher Of Restraint
29. A Visitor From Brahmaloka
30. The Elephant
31. Sutasoma
32. Prince of the Iron House
33. The Buffalo
34. The Woodpecker

35. The Compassionate Lion
36. Great Diligence
37. Gold Colored King
38. Wild Animal Kunda
39. The Meritorious King
40. Bhikshu Kirti Prabha
41. The Master Desiring Solitude
42. King of the Illuminating Lamp
43. Rabbit Enjoying Solitude
44. King Bearing a Staff
45. Indomitable Children
46. King Sthiradatta
47. Bodhisattva Bliss Giver
48. Ascetic Pleasant Ray
49. Water Born Child
50. The Worldly Joy
51. King Brahmadatta
52. Kumara Seeking Spiritual Instruction
53. Kumari Having Wisdom
54. The Doctor Who Makes Rain Fall
55. Prince Mirror Face
56. The Sage Born in a Cattle Shed
57. Peaceful Intellect
58. Nagaraja Big Drum
59. The Water Bird (chu sreg)
60. Buddha Vishvajnana
61. The Compassionate Leader
62. Kumara with a Soul of Compassion
63. Shishu Karma
64. Indra Who Helps to Overcome from Non-virtue
65. Buddha Brahma
66. The Dancer
67. Chakravartin King Mandhatri
68. The Nagraja Enjoying the Treasure
69. The Lion King
70. Megha, Brahmin Child
71. King Prabhavati
72. Renowned Brahma
73. The Gambler
74. Peaceful and Gentle Creature
75. Elephant with Six Tusks
76. Buddha Udayin
77. The Wealthy King
78. Brahma Joy of the Moon
79. King Ambar
80. King Shrisena
81. Prince Mahasattva
82. King Moonlight
83. King of Shibi
84. King Aranemi
85. The Bodhisattva Who Endures
86. Lion King Clotted Hair
87. Knowledgeable Master
88. Kumara Sudhana
89. Blissful God
90. The Meritorious Prince
91. Rishi Suprabha
92. The Rishi Who Accomplished the End of the Age
93. Ketumati
94. Shyamaka
95. Brahma Suryamala Prahana
96. Rishi Dhundubi
97. King Nemi
98. Bhikshu Utpala Mukha
99. Bodhisattva Virbala
100. The Magnificent One

The more recognizable and beloved stories are as follows:
no. 1. A Starving Tigress, A Tale of Compassion, Selflessness, and Generosity
The bodhisattva sees a starving tigress, who is about to eat her own cubs. Out of infinite compassion, the bodhisattva offers his own body as food instead.

no. 6. The Rabbit, A Tale of Selfless Kindness
A rabbit offers his own body as fuel for a traveler's cooking fire. The traveler, really Shakra, rejoices in the rabbit's selflessness, and pulls him out of the fire. He also inscribes the rabbit's image in the face of the moon.

no. 15. The Fish, The Rewards of Virtue
The bodhisattva born as a fish thinks solely of others. Due to an oversight of the gods, the lake in which he swims becomes dry, and he is attacked by birds of prey. On behalf of others, the bodhisattva hails the gods, who henceforth protect the lake from drought due to his tremendous virtue.

no. 16. The Baby Quail, The Power of Honesty
By the power of honest words the bodhisattva as a young quail saves his forest from fire. Acting virtuously, the quail would eat only vegetarian food, and thus he had not the strength to flee when the fire came. As his nest is licked by flames, he proclaims, "My feet are not strong enough to deserve their name, my wings are unable to fly; my parents you have put to flight, I have nothing worth offering a guest such as you. Therefore, fire, turn back!" Quelled by his honesty, the flames subside.

no. 22. The Noble Geese, A Tale of Friendship
As the king of geese, Dhritachatra, the bodhisattva's supreme compassion inspires others to act likewise. When the goose king becomes ensnared by a hunter's trap, his noble general and dear friend stands by his side, offering to sacrifice himself instead when the hunter arrives to collect his prey. Moved by the goose's compassion, the hunter sets Dhritachatra free and offers veneration.

no. 24. The Great Monkey, The Consequences of Turning Against a Friend
The bodhisattva as a monkey teaches the benefits of kindness and the consequences of turning against a friend. Living as an ascetic filled with great compassion, the monkey saves a farmer who falls into a chasm. When the farmer repays this kindness with injury, the monkey nevertheless forgives him, but the farmer contracts leprosy as a consequence nonetheless. Understanding the ramifications of his actions, the farmer preaches the benefits of kindness.

no. 25. The Fabulous Sharabha Deer, Having Compassion for an Enemy
While on a hunting expedition, having become separated from his party, a king attempts to slay a deer but falls into a gaping chasm. Having the form of that deer, the bodhisattva rescues the king. In exchange for this kindness the king agrees to prohibit hunting in the forest thereafter.

no. 27. The Monkey King, A Tale of Leadership and Self Sacrifice
As a noble king of monkeys, the bodhisattva teaches that all kings must live in spiritual truth, protecting their subjects as they would their own children. The wise monkey king lives with his subjects in a fruit-baring grove. When a greedy human king discovers the delicacy of the fruit, he attacks the monkeys. In spiritual truth, the monkey sacrifices himself on behalf of his subjects, and inspires the human king to act righteously.

no. 30. The Elephant, A Tale of Self Sacrifice
Fleeing from a great war, a group of wanderers arrive starving in a remote oasis. Meeting the bodhisattva as a wise elephant, they seek refuge. The elephant instructs the wanderers to journey down a cliff, where, he tells them, they will find the carcass of a large elephant to sustain them. While the group walks away the elephant hurls himself over the cliff's edge, and it is his body they encounter at the base. Recognizing the noble beast, the group honors the sacrifice.

no. 33. The Buffalo, A Tale of Patience
The bodhisattva in the form of a buffalo is harassed by a wicked monkey. Seeing his plight, a yaksha tree spirit appears to the buffalo and asks him why he does not put an end to this suffering. Replying that to tolerate injuries from the powerless is an opportunity to demonstrate righteous action, the buffalo teaches the virtue of patience.

no. 34.The Woodpecker, Kindness without Thought of Reward
A lion suffers in the forest, a bone stuck in his throat. Born as a woodpecker, the bodhisattva takes great personal risk and crawls into the lion's mouth to free the bone. The lion is grateful and allows the woodpecker to live. At a later time, the woodpecker is starving and desires to share in the lion's meal. Heedless of the kindness previously afforded to him, the lion makes no offer to share. When questioned by a local forest spirit, the woodpecker avows forgiveness; he had no thought of reward when he saved the lion, for true kindness comes only from selfless compassion.

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