Himalayan Art Resources

Shakyamuni Buddha: Jataka Stories Art History

Jataka Stories Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Art History Topics (below)
- Masterworks
- Jataka Outline Page
- Jataka Stories Single Composition (all stories)
- Jataka Painting Sets
- With Central Figure
- Without Central Figure
- Register/horizontal Figure Composition
- Floating Figure Composition
- Three Painting Composition
- Eleven Painting Composition
- Early Period: 11th to 14th century
- Middle Period: 15th to 17th century
- Late Period: 18th to present
- Confusions: Avadana, Tonpa Shenrab
- Others...

The Jataka Stories, both the thirty-four and one-hundred, are almost always depicted in sets of multiple compositions - painting sets. The sets can have as few as three compositions or more than a dozen. On the HAR website there is a painting depicting all one-hundred stories in a single composition and another single painting depicting the life story of the Buddha along with the Thirty-four Jataka stories. (See both images).

The Jataka stories, like the Avadana stories, are depicted either as a continuous narrative or a narrative vignette incorporating the key visual elements to represent the essence of each story. Because of this. of the four compositional types, there are no over-lapping figure or repeated figure compositions for this Jataka subject. Also, there are no special ground colours such as black, gold or red. Jataka paintings employ either a register or floating figure composition and a multi-coloured palette for the depictions of the figures and surroundings.

A single scroll work painted composition containing all thirty-four stories will always have a central Shakyamuni Buddha subject. A set of paintings depicting the thirty-four stories divided by an uneven number of compositions will have either a central buddha figure for each composition or only for the first painting in the set. Depending on the choice of the donor or the artist the following paintings in a set might have no central figure and use that additional space in the composition for detailed or extended narrative vignettes.

Database Search: All Images

Jeff Watt 1-2013 [updated 12-2018, 4-2020]

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