Paintings from the Kathmandu Valley
The red-skinned Padmapani Lokesvara on the Library’s Bridging Worlds poster hints at the worlds that Buddhists routinely bridge. He stands in the classic tribhanga pose, bent at the neck and the waist in a graceful S shape. He holds in his hand the lotus that gives him his name (padma is “lotus,” pani is “hand” in Sanskrit). But his feet rest not on a water-borne lotus, as tradition would have it, but on a scallop shell—and in pastel colors too. This is Padmapani on the half shell, Botticelli’s Venus meets the Bodhisattva of the compassionate gaze.
These paintings represent the latest chapter in a long tradition of artistry and craftsmanship for the Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. Newars worked for Buddhist elites all over the Himalayas, and were especially sought-after as painters and metalsmiths for the great temples and monasteries of Tibet. This contemporary style situates the figures prescribed by Sanskrit iconography in spare landscapes quite unlike the jam-packed hieratic spaces of earlier painting styles. These paintings from largely anonymous hands derive from the innovative work of Prem Man Citrakar, whose color calendars are a popular highlight of every Newari New Year.