Himalayan Art Resources

Padmasambhava: Early Images (Primary & Secondary)

Padmasambhava Art History | Padmasambhava (Primary Figure)

Padmasambhava as the Central Subject:
Paintings of Padmasambhava created prior to the 16th century are very rare. There are only three early works on the HAR website where Padmasambhava is the central figure, HAR #160, HAR #30820, and HAR #92019. The side figures in the paintings are very similar one to the other and seem to follow a similar iconographic program (along with the minor figures in two of the mandalas below - Heruka HAR #89981 and Hayagriva HAR #30911).

Video: Padmasambhava: Early Portrait Paintings

Padmasambhava as a Minor Figure:
There are a number of early examples where Padmasambhava is a minor figure in the composition. Two of the paintings depict the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas as the principal theme. A 15th century work, HAR #89, places Padmasambhava as one of the mahasiddhas, likely in place of Padmakara. Followers of the Nyingma tradition often conflate Padmasambhava and Padmakara. The second work situates Padmasambhava as a minor figure slightly above and to the side of the central Vajradhara. In this example, HAR #665, Padmasambhava belongs to a triad with Shakyamuni Buddha as the first figure followed by Padmasambhava and then Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara. In later paintings this triad will become common place with the removal of Shakyamuni and Amitabha Buddha added in his place - Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara and Padmasambhava.

Three of the paintings place the minor figure of Padmasambhava in the top register lineage HAR #30911, HAR #65125 and HAR #90765.

The two paintings of the Eleven-faced Avalokiteshvara, HAR #852 and HAR #58355, depict a small Padmasambhava directly above Jinasagara Avalokiteshvara and the two attendant deities of Jnana Dakini and Hayagriva.

Paintings in Chronological Order:
- Heruka Mandala #89981, 13th century (Secondary Figure)
- Padmasambhava & Krodha Kali #160, 13th/14th century (Central Figure)
- Dorje Rabtenma #58320, 14th century (Secondary Figure)
- Hayagriva Mandala #30911, 14th century (Secondary Figure)
- Avalokiteshvara #58355, 14th century (Secondary Figure)
- Padmasambhava #92019, 14th/15th century (Central Figure)
- Padmasambhava #30820, 14th/15th century (Central Figure)
- Amitabha Buddha in Sukhavati, #88701, 15th century (Secondary Figure)
- Vajradhara #89, 15th century (Secondary Figure)
- Hayagriva #65125, 15th century (Secondary Figure)
- Vajrakila Mandala #90765, 15th century (Secondary Figure)
- Avalokiteshvara #852, 15th century (Secondary Figure)
- Jinasagara Avalokiteshvara #90541, 15th century (Secondary Figure)
- Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara #65080, 15th century (Secondary Figure)
- Haygriva with Consort #77185, 15th/16th century (Secondary Figure)
- Vajradhara #665, 16th century (Secondary Figure)
- Guru Dragpo #69430, 16th century (Secondary Figure)
- Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara #58962, 16th century (Secondary Figure)
- Chaturbhuja Avalokiteshvara, #89125, 16th century (Secondary Figure)

Jeff Watt 5-2013