Catalog 103.
Zanabazar (1635-1723),
late 17th-early 18th century
Gilt Bronze
H: 16 3/4 (42.5 cm) W: 10 5/8" (27.0 cm)
D: 7 1/8" (18.1 cm)
Bogdo Khan Palace Museum

One of Zanabazar's large sculptural projects was his series of Green Tara and her twenty-one manifestations, four pieces of which are seen here. The entire set represents the Taras invoked in "Twenty-One Verses in Praise of Tara," part of the Tara Tantra. Like many Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhist deities, Green Tara, a goddess of compassion, has both benevolent and wrathful aspects. Of these four, no. 106 is easily identified as Ekajati, also called Black Tara, a fierce emanation of Tara who holds the chopper and skull cup. The other wrathful Tara (no. 105) is identified by an inscription on the base as "the seventh Green Tara," who destroys enemies' magical powers. The benevolent Tara of no. 103, whose form is harmoniously framed by lotuses, has a seated Amitabha Buddha in her crown, an iconographic feature of Avalokiteshvara, Lord of Compassion. More mysterious is the peaceful deity (no. 104), who is notably masculine in appearance with a thicker waist and lacking the prominent breasts of the other four figures. This Tara is perhaps Avalokiteshvara himself, Tara's male counterpart.

Unusual for Zanabazar's work, only the faces of the figures are painted with cold gold--a characteristic of Tibetan sculpture. The drama, sensuality, and refined details of the pieces are typical of Zanabazar, however.

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