Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Clouds Main Page

Clouds | Art History Main Page | Iconography Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Cloud Description (below)
- Iconographic Source Literature & Deity Figures
- Convention or Artistic Tradition in Relation to Figures
- Types of Cloud (shape, colour, composition, etc.)
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

Clouds are understood in three ways in relation to Himalayan style art: (1) from the point of view of textual iconography and literature, (2) from the point of view of general convention or an artistic tradition in relation to figures, and (3) the drawing and painting of clouds.

There are relatively few deity figures that have clouds in their iconographic source literature. The protector deity Bernagchen Mahakala has an attached oral narrative from the time of Karma Pakshi (1206-1283) when Mahakala was perceived in the sky with the lower half of the body covered by clouds. That story has now entered the mainstream of the Karma Kagyu tradition and can even be found represented in liturgical ritual literature.

Some Nyingma forms of the deity Ekajati are described as surrounded by clouds, or clothed in clouds. Likewise there are Bon religion retinue deities that are clothed in clouds.

Aside from textual tradition there are figures which are depicted with clouds based on a general convention or on artistic tradition. For the latter, convention or artistic tradition, examples might be of heavenly gods seated on clouds, a mahasiddha or monastic figures that are known for flying in the sky. Such figures would likely be depicted atop clouds or with clouds below or around the body.

The drawing of clouds, their shapes, colours, placement in the composition, employment as design motifs, all of that relates to chronology, historical time period and region of the Himalayas, Tibet and Central Asia.

Jeff Watt 9-2015 [updated 5-2018]