Mahakala, Protector of the Tent (Tibetan Buddhism)

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Artist's Description

Mahakala, Protector of the Tent

Date:ca. 1500
Culture:Central Tibet
Medium:Distemper on cloth
Dimensions:Image: 64 × 53 in. (162.6 × 134.6 cm)
Classification:Paintings
Credit Line:Zimmerman Family Collection, Gift of the Zimmerman Family, 2012
Accession Number:2012.444.4
Not on view

Mahakala is one of the most popular guardians in the Tibetan Buddhist pantheon. Here he tramples a corpse while wielding a flaying knife and a blood-filled skull cup, signifying the destruction of impediments to enlightenment. In the crooks of his elbows he supports a gandi gong, a symbol of his vow to protect the community of monks (sangha). His principal companions, Palden Remati and Palden Lhamo, appear to his left, and Legden Nagpo and Bhutadamara are at his right. At lower left is Brahmarupa blowing a thighbone trumpet. He is especially revered by the Sakya order, which commissioned this work. This tangka, one of the earliest and grandest of this subject, can be related to murals preserved in the fifteenth-century Kumbum at Gyantse monastery, central Tibet, likely painted under Newari direction.

Provenance
Private collection , England (early 1960s–about 1980; sold to Zimmerman); Zimmerman Family Collection , New York (about 1980–2012; donated to MMA)

Exhibition History
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Masterpieces of Tibetan and Nepalese Art: Recent Acquisitions,” September 17, 2013–February 2, 2014.

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