Green Tara, 19th century
Tibet
Pigments on cloth
29 ⅝ x 22 ½ in.

 

The imposing yet serene female figure found in this painting is known as Tara, the most prominent and beloved female deity in the Buddhist traditions of the Himalayas. She is the principle example of a female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism and is also considered a fully awakened Buddha in Tantric Buddhist traditions.
It is said that when Tara first took the vow to achieve enlightenment eons ago, she promised that she would always appear in female form for the benefit of all living beings. As a fully awakened Buddha, Tara is looked to for protection and, depending upon the tradition, has 21 manifestations, which are depicted with slight variations from each other in painted or sculptural form.
Here, she appears as Green Tara, the “Buddha of enlightened action.” She is surrounded by a radiant aura of light, and her crown and jewelry indicate her status as a deity. The moon disc upon which she sits is placed upon an elaborate lotus, relating to the story of her origins. Tara holds in her left hand the stem of a flowering lotus, a symbol of purity and wisdom, while her other hand is held in the gesture of gift giving. She sits majestically in the posture of “royal ease,” with one foot extended forward as if she is going to spring into action. The deity dominates the composition, which is separated into various vignettes by landscape details, such as mountain formations, clouds, and trees.

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