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Book Cover with Manjuvajra and Consort Flanked by Lamas

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Tibetans emulated the Indian reverence accorded to Buddhist manuscripts, and in Tibet the covers that shielded the texts were sometimes painted on the exterior with elaborate designs and more rarely, on the interior with depictions of sacred subjects. At the center of this book cover is a six-armed, three-headed Manjuvajra, an Esoteric form of the bodhisattva Manjushri, seated in ecstatic embrace with his consort, the three-headed, six armed goddess Vidyadhara. The couple sits on a multicolored lotus pedestal. At either side is a lama seated on a similar lotus and surrounded by a red nimbus. The monks gaze toward the central deities and hold their hands in gestures of instruction; at the right, a form of vitarkamudra (religious discourse) and at the left, dharmachakramudra (the turning of the wheel of the law). The quality of the portraiture is extremely sensitive, conveying not only a sense of great individuality, but also one of inwardness. The Nepalese style of the painting, seen in the jewelry, the facial characteristics of the deities, and the scrolling foliate pattern that fills the central nimbus, first became popular in Tibet in the thirteenth century.

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