Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Composition - Repeated Figures (Confusions)

Repeated Figures Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Repeated Figures Confusions (below)
- Four Transcendent Lords & the One Thousand Enlightened Ones
- Maha Vairochana Depictions of Deities
- One Thousand Buddhas of the Eon
- Sarva Durgati Parishodhana Depictions of Deities
- Thirty-five Confession Buddhas
- Tattvasamgraha Depictions of Deities
- Twenty-one Taras
- Others....

There are a number of iconographic subjects that can be confused with the repeated figure composition.

The majority of repeated figure paintings are late productions, post 17th century. They do however create some confusion when looking at earlier, pre-17th century, paintings which principally employ the use of registers. A confusion over dating can arise when thinking that all paintings with registers are early and all paintings with floating figures and landscape are late.

Three general subject types are found when looking at Repeated Figure Compositions. These subjects types also correspond to an early, middle,and late chronology in the development of Tibetan paintings. 1) Early paintings sometimes depict rows of identical Buddhas (along with other figures in the lower registers). The subject of these paintings are drawn from the Charya and Yoga Tantras where a particular mandala will contain the 1000 Buddhas. Although the imagery of the figures appears repeated, actually each of the Buddhas has a unique name and identity. Paintings such as these lost popularity after the 15th century. 2) After that time the subject of just painting the 1000 Buddhas as secondary figures in sets of five paintings became more popular. Again, each of these Buddhas has a unique name and identity. 3) After the 17th century it became far more popular to create paintings with repeated secondary figures that all have the same appearance, name and identity.

Jeff Watt [added 3-2020]

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).