Tibetan Art Cleveland Green Tara Painting in Mid 13th C. In Central Research Paper

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Green Tara

Tibetan Art - Cleveland Green Tara Painting

The Cleveland Green Tara Painting is a typical Thangka painting of Tibet. Thangka is a form of art that is connected with Tibetian culture and mysticism. Thangka paintings are more than a piece of art and have a significant place in Tibetian religion and daily life. Thangka is depicts many aspects of Buddhism. Traditionally painted on silk or cotton, Thangka uses bright colors. Thangkas are displays on many Nepalese and Tibetian homes.

Thangkas are hand painted by a Nepali or Tibetian artist. The term Thangka is believed to have come from the word "thang yig," which means "a written record" (Thangkapaintings.com). Thangka are found in many homes as wall decorations, but to the Lamas, they are an object of spiritual importance. They are a bringer of blessings and provide a focal point for meditation.

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Thangka can be divided into two major categories: bristhan and gosthan. Bristhan are painted onto the cloth. Gosthan have the designs woven directly into them. Painted thangka are further divided into five categories: different colored background, gold background, red background, black background and those whose outlines are printed on cotton and then filled in with color (Thangkapaintings.com). They come in many different styles and have many different subjects as their focus. These subjects include Buddhist and Hindu Gods, Goddesses, the Buddha and his life cycle, Wheel of life, mandala, and other exotic pictures (Thangkapaintings.com). As one can see, not all of the subjects are religious in nature. There are several different styles of painting. Many have recognizable iconography, providing the viewer with information about the traditions from which the piece originated.

Research Paper on Tibetan Art Cleveland Green Tara Painting in Mid 13th C. In Central Tibet Assignment

Tara are is a Tibetian deity who helps practitioners of Vajrayana Bhuddhism learn the inner, outer and secret lessons that have to do with learning compassion and the achievement of emptiness in meditation. Green Tara is the female Buddha of enlightenment. This can be contrasted with the Red Tara, stands for a fierce magnetizing effect on all good things, the Black Tara associated with power or the Blue Tara that is associated with the transformation of anger. Each Tara has a specific meaning and value to the practitioner of meditation and in the seeking of enlightenment. The following research will examine an ancient Tara painting known as the Cleveland Green Tara painting from the 13th century.

The Cleveland Green Tara Painting

The Cleveland Green Tara painting is housed in the Cleveland Museum of Art and is dated to the 13th century. It is a black background tara painting, featuring the Green Tara. It is a color on canvas and measures 52.4cm x 43.2cm (Rumsey). The Green Tara is also known as the Syama Tara. According to Rumsey, she is one of the most popular deities in Tibet. She is the personification of the wisdom (prajna) protects and offers salvation to her followers.

Source: http://amica.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/view/search?q=AMICOID=CMA_.1970.156%20LIMIT:AMICO~1~1&sort=INITIALSORT_CRN%2COCS%2CAMICOID&search=Search

As with most of the Tara, the Green Tara can take on many iconographic variations, that give her a more specific meaning. In the Cleveland Green Tara, she is shown in the Astamahabhaya Tara and in serving as Protectress from the Eight Great Perils in this particular pose (Rumsey). The eight great perils are depicted on both sides of the doorjambs of the shrine. Behind the shrine are seventeen different species of a bodhi tree. These are characteristic of the growth of a different Buddha. This is symbolism for the path to enlightenment and a reminder that the Green Tara is the mother of all buddhas (Rumsey). The largest tree is at the top and is adorned with precious gems, rather than fruits as with the other trees. This tree of the fulfillment of wishes.

The Green Tara sits on a double lotus, which is placed on a base decorated with lions and elephants. The arch at the top is adorned with the face of glory (kirttimukha) (Rumsey). Rearing rams standing on the backs of elephants support the arch. The outer wall of the shrine depicts lions standing on the backs of elephants. It might be noted that these images are not completely symmetrical. The right hand elephant with the goat is more visible than the left hand elephant. In addition, both of the elephants with lions on their back are facing the same direction, not what would be expected if they were truly holding up the arch. According to Runsey, the paining shows a distinctive eastern Indian influence, but a strong Nepalese influence as well.

The Green Tara is depicted with a blue peony. Blue is the symbol of the potential for rage and anger that lie in everyone. Even the most peaceful of us have the potential to exhibit this quality. The use of blue in her halo also symbolizes this potential that lies within us. The purpose of the Green Tara is to guard us from the forces symbolized by the blue portions of the painting.

According to Runsey, the combination of Nepalese and Indian influences in the painting indicate an early date and at time when the Pala style of Tara painting was the dominant form. It also suggests that the painting was from a time when the Newari influence was strong. These features support the dating of the thangka to the 13th century. The piece is reminiscent of Aniko's studio. The monk who commissioned the painting is depicted at the bottom of the Goddess's right hand, whose identity has faded into antiquity. The reverse side of the thangka contains a Tibetian inscription, further supporting the Tibetian origins of this painting. The inscription quotes a Buddhist mantra and poem (Runsey).

Green Tara, tangka. Ford collection. Late 11th-early 12th century

Let us compare the Green Tara painting with another Green Tara Painting from a slightly early time that is housed in the Ford Collection. This Tara is similar in many ways to the one housed in the Cleveland Museum of Art, but it is very different as well. Both of these renditions of the Green Tara show the deity in the same position and seated on a double lotus. The deity is flanked by similar blue flowers, but they are not peonies, as with the Cleveland Green Tara.

This Green Tara is from Central Tibet and dates from the 11th to early 12th century. It is 48 X 31.5 inches and is housed in the John and Berthe Ford Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It is painted on Cotton (Asianart.com).

Source: http://kaladarshan.arts.ohio-state.edu/studypages/internal/690.02ArtofTibet/11th-12th%20Tib%20ptg/03Tara.html

According to Asianart.com, aside from promoting the path to enlightenment, the Green Tara will also protect the follower from the eight great physical perils of the world. These are listed as including floods, fire, attacks from predatory animals, and bandits. Like the Cleveland Green Tara, this one is flanked by eight images. Only rather than representing the eight great perils, they are the eight manifestations of the deity. Two bodhisattavas flank her on the bottom two side columns that depict the eight aspects of the Tara. There are two more bodhisattvas flanking the five transcendental Buddhas along the top. On the bottom are scenes of consecration by a monk. Following these are five females deities who are the five consorts of the five transcendental Buddhas (Asianart.com).

It is believed that the two monks at the entrance to the cave are Atisha and his disciple, Dromton (Asianart.com). These monks are said to be the founders of the Kadampa order. The style of the paining is close the eastern Indian style of Bihar and Bengal. There is still speculation as to whether it was imported from Bihar or created in Tibet by an artist from India. The style of the painting is similar to that used in manuscript paintings of the time. There are many opinions as to who created this painting and everyone feels that this is was painted in the middle portion of the 12th century. There are many speculatory guesses, but they are limited, to just guesses. However, an Indian influence is present in the stylized trees above are Khadira trees, which only grow in India (Asianart.com).

Suntek Green Tara

The third Green Tara painting that we will examine is the Suntek Green Tara. Unlike the other two taras, cracks in this Tara indicate that the material is not cloth, that that his is wood. It is highly adorned with gold leaf. Once again we find the Green Tara sitting on a double lotus flower and surrounded by eight virtues of the goddess. However, in this rendition, there are striking dissimilarities. For instance, the Tara has tow extra arms. She still holds the blue peony flowers in each hand. This study is likely not as old as the other two that were studied. The Green Tara in the Ford Collection is older and has flowers that are different from those in the later tangka. The peony might indicate paintings from a later time period. This Tara does not appear to have been studied as extensively as the previous two Taras mentioned.


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