Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Avalokita (Chaturbhuja Painting Masterworks Description)

Chaturbhuja Masterworks

Masterworks for Chaturbhuja Lokeshvara Painting

As a disclaimer, yes, the selection of masterworks in general are very much subjective and up to the opinion of each individual observer.

Within the study of the field of Himalayan art and iconography there are excepted norms and standards that are applied to objects deemed a masterwork, or falling within the broad area of what are classified as masterworks. There are two main subjects: iconographic accuracy and cultural convention.

Iconographic Accuracy is a depiction of a figure correctly followed as described in the tantric source literature and the authoritative commentaries. From the Eleven Figurative Appearances or forms, Lokeshvara is Peaceful in Appearance. Appearance in general refers to facial expression, body type, clothing and ornamentation. Specific figures within this category can have multiple faces and arms and positioned in various seated or standing postures. Figures are generally distinguished by gender, colour, faces and limbs, hand attributes and posture. Sometimes there are special characteristics unique to a particular deity. (For a technical analysis see HAR #73807

"As the nature of all buddhas, Avalokiteshvara, in colour like stainless conch and crystal, very resplendent, smiling, peaceful and radiant. With four hands the first are folded at the heart, the lower hold a crystal mala and jeweled lotus, two beautiful feet seated in vajra posture, adorned with many attractive silks and jewels, beautified with dark blue hair in tufts [some] loose. On the crown of the head, the wisdom of all buddhas, is the Lord, source of all refuge gathered as one, in essence the Guru in the aspect of Amitabha [Buddha], in the manner of the Lord of the Family, seated happily." (Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrub 1497-1557).

Cultural Convention refers to the stylistic elements relating to a place and time. The style and quality of the work is the most important consideration. There are three criteria: line, colour and composition. Line refers to the quality of the basic drawing. Colour refers to the quality of the pigments, preparation, application and shading. Composition relates to the placement of the subject elements of a painting within the rectangular cloth ground of the artwork.

All of the stylistic elements are based on cultural convention from specific times and places. Broad cultural areas and in some examples specific regional areas can have many different styles which are further identified by time period. The major cultures are India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia and China. The chronological period for all of these is generally the 11th through to the 19th century.

Paintings can generally be categorized as belonging to a tradition and specifically to a style. There are a number of painting traditions and styles not fully represented in the list below such as Khyenri, Guge, Chamdo, and Lhatog Khampa Gar.

Masterworks & Styles:
- 12th century, Tibet (Indian Style): HAR #9303
- 12th, Tibet (Indian Style): 73807
- 14th, Tibet, Tsang (Shalu Style): 57022
- 16th, Central Tibet (Menri Style): 86433
- 18th, Tibet (Tashi Lhunpo Style): 34826
- 18th, China, 18th century: 99097
- 18/19th, Central Tibet (New Menri Tradition): 3231
- 18/19th, East Tibet (Palpung Style): 77018
- 19th, East Tibet (Palpung Style): 4180
- 19th, Bhutan: 89177
- 19th, Bhutan: 2427

Jeff Watt 7-2021