Tibetan painting of Yama, an Indian death-god who became a protector of Buddhism after being tamed by the Bodhisattva Manjushri. Artist unknown; mid-17th to mid-18th century. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Date:14th–16th century Geography:Tibet Culture:Tibetan Medium:Carved wood, skin, gesso, gilding Dimensions:Height: 42 15/16 in. (109 cm) Classification:Chordophone-Lute-plucked-unfretted Credit Line:Purchase, Clara Mertens Bequest, in memory of André Mertens, 1989Accession Number:1989.55 The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Images and description from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “The ancient “silk route”, running from the Mediterranean to Sian in east central China, made Central Asia a meeting place of many cultures. This lute, an extraordinary example of musical exchange between East and West, is similar to instruments played by angels depicted in seventh-century Buddhist cave paintings. It offers some insight into the development of the modern sgra-snyan. The body, with two skin-covered chambers, is a rare example of an archaic transitional form that seems to point to the Afghan robab, and various Himalayan lute types. Decorative elements, such as green-colored skins, like those of the damarn, and the portraits of Buddha and musicians, rendered on painted ivory with gold leaf, are typical of fifteenth-century Tibet. The back, fingerboard, and pegbox reveal cartouches and palmettes reminiscent of seventeenth-century Persia. Tin leafing shows through as a silvery underlayer in a worn section of the instrument. Painted gesso adheres to the surface, the result of an ancient gilding process known as adoratura. Originally, there were six strings attached to this instrument, but the pegbox was shortened to accommodate five, with a possible sixth string attached to a side peg. Despite the appearance of Buddha and his musicians, the sgra-snyan was not used in religious settings, but accompanied secular song.”
Description and images via:Rubin Museum of Art “This eight-panel, double-sided scroll presents diagrams
exploring various aspects of the cosmos as described in the Buddhist
text called the Wheel of Time (Kalachakra) Tantra. This tantra emphasizes the correlations between the outward appearances of the universe and the human body.
This fully annotated diagram of the Buddhist cosmos renders all of the
essential elements of the Kalachakra system’s understanding of
upper-world topography, and displays them both from above and from the
side. It focuses particularly on Mount Meru, which is believed to sit at
the center axis of the cosmos. Meru’s base, or foundation, consists of
four round disks that represent (from bottom to top) air, fire, water,
The Cosmic Man
The human body represents a complex inner cosmology with direct
correlations to the universe. Branching off from the vertical central
channel of this “cosmic man” are six centers, or chakras,
associated with the six elements: space, located at the crown; water, at
the forehead; fire, at the throat; wind, at the heart; earth, at the
navel; and awareness, at the genitals. In addition to these primary chakras, the painting also depicts the chakras
at the main joints—shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles—
which correlate to the twelve signs of the zodiac. The figure’s fingers,
correspond to the five elements.”
“I needed an outstanding character and I had been thinking of one who would be a mystery in himself, moving into the affairs of lesser folks much to their amazement.
“By combining Houdini’s penchant for escapes with the hypnotic power of Tibetan mystics…such a character would have unlimited scope when confronted by surprise situations, yet all could be brought within the range of credibility.”