Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Set: Eight Great Bodhisattvas (Palpung)

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The collection of miscellaneous images below are all from various copies of a nine painting set depicting the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. The paintings are based on an earlier set said to have been painted by Konchog Pende of E in the mid to late 16th century. In 1732 Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne asked an artist to trace a copy of the earlier works and then had a set painted based on the tracings. It is likely that all of the paintings, of partial sets, below are derived either from the set originating from Konchog Pende or from the copy made by Situ Panchen in the 18th century.

In the Tibetan artistic traditions this style of painting is called 'gya-lug' or Chinese style. The individual depictions of the bodhisattvas are non-iconic and likely based on the narrative stories of the bodhisattvas as found in the Mahayana Sutra literature along with the imagination and artistic tradition of the original artist that created the works.

The central painting of the set has not yet been identified and the specific subject is unknown, however it is likely to be Amitabha or Shakyamuni Buddha. It is even possible that there was no central painting. In Tibetan art the Eight Bodhisattvas are more often depicted surrounding Amitabha Buddha placed in the setting of the Sukhavati Paradise.

Jeff Watt 3-2009

(For more information see 'Bodhisattvas South of the Clouds' by Karl Debreczeny. Chapter 10. Patron and Painter, Situ Panchen and the Revival of the Encampment Style. David P. Jackson. Rubin Museum of Art. 2009).