Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - Shakyamuni

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 646)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1300 - 1399
Lineages Uncertain
Size 53.34x46.99cm (21x18.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1998.13.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Buddha

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Shakyamuni or Ratnasambhava, Buddha (Tibetan: sha kya tu pa, sang gye. English: the Sage of the Shakya Clan, Enlightened One): belonging to the set of the Seven Generations of Buddhas.

Sanskrit: Buddha Shakyamuni Tibetan: Sang gye sha kya tu pa

Golden in appearance, peaceful, with one face and two hands, he gazes foreword with slightly closed eyes. Atop the head the hair forms a mound crowned with a jewel. The extended earlobes - pierced, indicate his royal background. The right hand is held to the heart in the mudra (gesture) of bestowing fearlessness. The left is placed in the lap in the mudra of meditation. The two feet are arranged in vajrasana (vajra posture) with the right leg over left. Attired in the red patchwork robes of a monk, blue-trimmed, the right arm and shoulder remain uncovered. Atop a moon disc, multi-coloured lotus blossom as a cushion, and a lion supported throne, he sits surrounded by an elaborate backrest. At the sides above a white elephant stands a blue dog-like creature (typically a winged horse); above that is a pink makara (sea creature). At the top is a white Garuda with unfurled wings, grasping a snake (naga) in the beak and with the two hands.

At the left is a bodhisattva attendant, blue in colour, holding in the downward stretched right hand the stem of a flower blossoming at the shoulder. The right is held to the heart in the mudra of blessing. Richly adorned with a tiara, earrings, jewels and ornaments, he stands above a moon and lotus seat. At the right is a white bodhisattva, similar in appearance and posture.

Along the top are six buddhas in a variety of colours and performing various mudras; yellow, red, white, orange, white and green. The hand gestures of the central figure and the six buddhas are unique and likely portray one of various sets of the Seven Generations of Buddhas (sang gye rab dun); Vipashyin, Shikhin, Vishvabhuk, Krakucchanda, Kanakamuni, Kashyapa and Shakyamuni. Below at the left is a monk wearing orange robes and a pandita hat, performing the mudra of Dharma Teaching; seated on a pink lotus. At the right is a lay teacher performing the teaching mudra, wearing white garments and a blue meditation cloak; seated in a similar manner.

At the bottom, in a row from the left, are the Seven Royal Jewels of a Universal Monarch - a wheel, jewel, horse, elephant, queen, minister and general. These are presented as offerings to the buddha above; seen as the supreme Universal Monarch. The painting has strong Indian artistic elements exhibited particularly in the standing postures of the two attendant bodhisattvas. The geometric arrangement and dominant red and blue colouring indicate a Nepali style common in paintings from Southern Tibet.

Jeff Watt 5-99

Secondary Images
Related Items
Thematic Sets
Shakyamuni Buddha: Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 3
Painting Style: Tibet (Balri)
Subject: Torana, Shakyamuni Buddha (Early Animal Depictions)
Shakyamuni Buddha: Early Paintings
Shakyamuni Buddha: Iconography (Types & Forms)