|15th century, Tibet|
A highly realistic and spiritual model of the great Buddhist teacher, Atisha (985 - 1054). He is portrayed dressed in the traditional patchwork robes of a monk, the pandita hat, a symbol of his higher learning, on his head, and seated upon a single lotus base.
Atisha’s face, painted gold, is both stern and serene at the same time, his lips pursed as if about to utter a great teaching. His hands are delicately fashioned, one resting in his lap, the other posed in vitarka mudra, the gesture of transmission. His richly painted robes drape and pool gracefully around him. His bare feet crossed in the full lotus position, toes flexed and extended in either agony or ecstasy. A stupa, one of Atisha’s attributes, appears to the left, his other attribute, the covered basket, now missing. The statue remains sealed and consecrated with its original wooden base plate.
A striking sense of realism, with wonderful attention paid to detail, has been captured by the artist, using the papier-mâché technique, in which paper pulp is used to mold the figure, which is then covered with gesso before being painted in bright polychromes. This technique is most commonly used for Cham dance masks, with only a handful of papier-mâché sculptures from this period known.
|This sculpture bears a striking resemblance in both form, decoration, and even coloration to the wood and clay sculptures housed at Palcho Monastery in |
Atisha is one of the great figures of classical Buddhism, revered in Tibet, and credited with reviving the Dharma in the region after an especially long and brutal period of suppression. Born in India as a prince, he renounced his position in life after receiving a vision from the Bodhisattva Tara. Over time he became renowned in the Buddhist world for his ability to debate, teach, and inspire. He studied and taught all over India, as well as Sumatra, Indonesia before journeying on to Tibet where he would spend the rest of his life.
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121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
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