Amitayus, known as the 'Buddha of Infinite Life,' is one of the most popular deities in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon. Amitayus is depicted here in his typical iconography, as a bodhisattva in a seated full-lotus posture with hands in meditation supporting a vase containing the Elixir of Immortality.
This thangka is exceptional in both its massive size and the quality of its embroidery. The embroidery emphasizes the contours of the design and subtly creates the illusion of three-dimensional forms, which is particularly evident in the shading of the clouds and contours of Amitayus’ body. This exemplifies the high standard of eighteenth-century embroidery. For an example of another finely-embroidered eighteenth-century embroidered thangka, see a thangka of Avalokiteshvara sold at Christie’s New York, 10 March 2014, lot 1631, where the stylization of the clouds compares closely to the present thangka.
The rendition of red Amitayus on his lotus throne is a popular theme in Tibeto-Chinese paintings, and has been popular as early as the fifteenth century. Compare a painting showing the Paradise of Amitayus, 15th century, illustrated in From the Sacred Realm: Treasures of Tibetan Art from the Newark Museum of Art, New York, 1999, pp. 247-49, pl. 142, depicting red Amitayus in a similar fashion, but surrounded by groups of deities and attendants.