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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Tibetan
Creator Name-CRT: Tibetan
Title: Green Tara
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1300
Creation End Date: 1399
Creation Date: 14th century
Creation Place: Tibet
Object Type: Drawings and Watercolors
Materials and Techniques: Opaque watercolor with gold on cotton
Dimensions: 30 3/4 x 25 in. (78 x 63.5 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1991.001
Credit Line: Asia Society: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Acquisitions Fund
Context: The slight sway in this 14th-century representation of Tara, the position of her legs, her garments, and background details such as the trees ultimately derive from Buddhist painting traditions that spread from eastern India to Kashmir, Tibet, Nepal, Myanmar, and other regions. Often known as the savioress, Tara is one of the most widely revered deities in Tibet, where she is worshipped in many guises. It is believed that the monk Atisa (982-1054), who is credited with the renaissance of Buddhism in Tibet, introduced the cult of Tara to Tibet in the mid-11th century, and this would help to account for her importance in Tibetan Buddhism. The fact that in this painting she is attended by two standing bodhisattvas suggests her portrayal as a buddha, embodying enlightenment and understanding.

Tara makes the gesture of charity (varadamudra) with her right hand and holds a lotus in her left. These gestures are commonly used in representations of Tara, and this image is identified as a form of Green or Syama (or Khadiravani) Tara by her color and her posture, in which one leg rests on the pedestal and the other is pendant. Another of her manifestations, White Tara, is represented in a small figure above the principal figure's left shoulder. Above her right shoulder, Shakyamuni Buddha is shown with the gesture of touching the earth (bhumisparshamudra). The two extremely small figures above Green Tara's head represent a mahasiddha (great sage) and a kingly person who was possibly a famous devotee, while the numerous small figures surrounding the image illustrate the many manifestations of Tara. The male and female donors of the painting and the monk who consecrated it are depicted in the center of the lower registers. The red hat worn by the monk indicates that he was a member of the Sakya order of Tibetan Buddhism, often called the "Red Hat" sect in Western scholarship. The presence of the monk and the donors and the painting's iconography suggest that it was used for meditation and initiation into practices centered on the many aspects and energies of Tara.

Several features indicate that this painting was created in the western part of central Tibet in an area known as Tsang. This area is renowned for a style of Tibetan painting that flourished from the 13th through 16th centuries and was strongly influenced by the art of Nepal because of the many Newari artists then working in central Tibet. The emphasis on blue and red in this painting and the treatment of the faces and figures reflect Nepali prototypes. The structured composition of space seen here and the rich and abundant detailing--for example, in the small figures--are typical of the art of Tsang. Additional details include the elegant designs on Tara's clothing, the rich and varied depictions of her lotus pedestal and the lotus flowers, the embossing of the halo and the crown, and the elaborate flowerlike pieces used to tie her diadem. The fact that her armlets are shown facing the inside rather than the outside of her arms also helps to place this painting in the Tsang tradition.

An image of a Tibetan-style stupa known as a chorten is drawn in black and red ink on the back. The only inscription on this painting is found within this stupa, directly in back of the main image of Tara. Written in Tibetan in the dbu can script, it reads om a hum. This traditional mantra, or sacred saying, is used in many aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, but provides no further information regarding this particular painting.

AMICA ID: ASIA.1991.001
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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