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Offerings to Wrathful Deities

Date:
late 16th century
Culture:
Tibet
Medium:
Ink and opaque watercolor on cloth
Dimensions:
66 15/16 x 43 11/16in. (170 x 111cm) Framed: 77 1/2 × 54 1/2 in. (196.9 × 138.4 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of Frances Gould-Naftal and Marvin Naftal, 1983
Accession Number:
1983.510.2
  • Description

    This black-ground (nag thang) painting would have been installed in the chapel dedicated to the wrathful protective deities known as the gonkhang, a room reserved for tantric initiation rites in a Tibetan monastery. The large scale and complexity of the composition relate to the offering scenes known as rgyan tshogs (sets of ornaments) painted on the walls of shrines dedicated to the Dharmapalas, protectors of the faith. Two wrathful tantric deities are represented with flames emanating from their beings, standing on a male corpse atop a lotus pedestal. They are draped in flayed skins and garlands of severed human heads and hold, respectively, a vajra-flaying knife and a sword with a vajra hilt—the utensils of tantric ritual. Arrayed behind them are offerings of flayed skins, ritual utensils and objects, a vast assortment of weapons, an empty robe, and other tantric devices. Placed as offerings before the two deities are three skullcaps (kapala) filled with sense organs. In the lower ground are the animals that serve as the deities’ vehicles, surrounded by other phantasmagorical beasts. Framing the scene above is a curtain of flayed human skins and organ entrails.

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
37805:5

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