Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Vajrabhairava with His Consort Vajravetali

18th century
Distemper on cloth
Overall with mounting: 56 x 25 1/2 in. (142.2 x 64.8 cm) Image: 33 15/16 x 20 1/4 in. (86.2 x 51.4 cm) Framed: 51 1/2 × 29 1/2 × 1 1/8 in. (130.8 × 74.9 × 2.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. W. de Forest, 1931
Accession Number:
Not on view
Vajrabhairava has thirty-four arms and brandishes an array of weapons while his sixteen legs trample birds, dogs, and Hindu gods. He embraces his consort Vajravetali, an animated corpse in a yab-yum (Tibetan for “father-mother”) sexual embrace. Such yab-yum images allude to the idea of dualistic totality encompassing compassion and skillful means embodied by the male and insight and wisdom associated with the female. They are surrounded by a flaming aureole that terminates in swirling clouds of smoke edged in gold. Vajrabhairava is a yidam, a deity that presides over the great tantras of the highest yoga. Like Yamantaka, he is a destroyer of death itself. Above sits the Buddha Akshobhya with twelve associated manifestations of Hayagriva (above and below), each in a different color. At lower right, a two-armed Mahakala stands on a corpse.
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