The Buddha Amitayus Attended by Bodhisattvas

Date: 11th or early 12th century

Culture: Tibet

Medium: Distemper on cloth

Dimensions: Overall: 54 1/2 x 41 3/4 in. (138.4 x 106.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1989

Accession Number: 1989.284


The cult of Amitayus, the Buddha of Eternal Life, was extremely popular in Tibet, as his followers believed that devotion to this Buddha would prolong their lives. Amitayus is shown cradling a jar containing the elixir of immortality in his lap as he preaches to an assemblage of Bodhisattvas (beings who have reached enlightenment but remain earthbound to save mankind) in his heaven. He is flanked by two Bodhisattvas standing on a gentle tribhanga (thrice-bent posture) typical of Indian Art and two tiers of seated Bodhisattvas, all of whom receive his doctrine. The seven figures in the upper register may be Buddhist hierarchs; they wear long-sleeved undergarments, voluminous cloaks, and flat hats, characteristics of eleventh-century Tibetan costume. At the bottom left are two figures, probably the donors of the painting, and on the right is a monk in monastic costume, who possiblly consecrated the thanka (painting on cloth). The monumental volumes of the deities and the slightly naïve rendering of the subsidiary figures are typical of this early phase of Tibetan thankas.