Mongolia, Tara by Zanabazar

17th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy, at the Winter Palace Museum, photo by Surun-Khanda Syrtypova.

17th century, Mongolia, Green Tara, gilt copper alloy, at the Winter Palace Museum (Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia), photo by Surun-Khanda Syrtypova.

This masterpiece, attributed to the great Mongolian artist Zanabazar, depicts Green Tara, one foot resting over a lotus flower attached to the base, each hand holding the long stem of an Indian Pala-style lotus flower and doing a symbolical gesture or mudra. Although inspired by the Indian Pala style, this type of double-lotus base is proper to Mongolia, and in particular to the  Zanabazar school. It consists of a lower part with a row of small beading and several tiers of plain metal followed by two rows of flat broad petals facing each other or slightly offset, the end of each petal softly curling up, and a row of large beading at the top. Her soft, warm facial features, reminiscent of Tibetan works and exquisitely painted with cold gold and pigments in the Tibetan fashion, are perhaps the most noticeable and pleasing aspect of this work.

Same as before.

Same as before.

This Green Tara’s facial expression, with a harder look and frowning eyebrows, and the style of her crown and ribbons, were inspired by Indian Pala works. It may have been made by someone else working with him (we will also notice the use of lapis lazuli powder rather than black pigment in the hair), or, he may have created it to suit a different taste/patron. In fact, the following piece is yet again in a different style.

Same as before, White Tara.

Same as before, White Tara.

White Tara sits in the vajra position and holds a lotus in her left hand. There is an eye incised in each of her palms. She sits with her back straight (in the Nepalese fashion) on a different type of lotus-base made of overlapping, upward-going semi-circular petals with a serrated edge, also typical of Mongolia. Her lower garment has incised stripes and a richly incised hem. The tail end is arranged into a scallop shape in front of her. Her thin celestial scarf rests over her left arm and drops behind her. She is adorned with the standard jewellery (necklaces, earrings, armbands, bracelets, anklets), belt, sacred thread, and a singular Nepalese-style crown with Kirtimukha at the base of the front panel.


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