Description With nine heads, thirty-four arms, and sixteen legs, the wrathful Buddhist deity Vajrabhairava presents an imposing image. Here seen in union with his consort, Vajravetali, his aim is no less than to destroy death itself, and thus his form must out-terrify that which many of us fear the most. Surrounded by blazing flames, he holds all manner of weapons, severed body parts, and other threatening objects, and he tramples members of the Hindu pantheon, regarded here as proponents of illusion and obstacles to enlightenment. Eight of his faces—including that of his central buffalo’s head—stare out with bulging eyes and open their mouths to reveal razor-sharp fangs. Vajrabhairava is a fierce emanation of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, whose peaceful face forms the smaller ninth head, crowning the others. This tangka (cloth scroll featuring Tibetan Buddhist imagery) is notable not only for its exceptionally large scale but also for the technique used to create it. Whereas most tangkas are painted, this one is made of hundreds of precisely cut pieces of silk and brocade, skillfully sewn together and enhanced with embroidery.
- Desire and Devotion: Art from India, Nepal, and Tibet in the John and Berthe Ford Collection. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara; Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong. 2001-2003.
Provenance Rudolph Antiquities, New York; purchased by John and Berthe Ford, Baltimore, December 1967; given to Walters Art Museum, 2015.
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Credit Gift of John and Berthe Ford, 2015
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