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Book covers

Nepal - Ivory - Width 22.5 cm - height 5.5 cm - 16th century

These engraved book covers embellished conceivably two different books. One might have contained the hagiogra- phy of the historical Buddha Shâkyamuni or a text attrib- uted to him (sutra); the other a version of the Pra- jnâpâramitâ, the “Perfection of Wisdom”, probably drawn up by the Indian philosopher and master Nâgârjuna. Indeed, the first cover depicts some important moments in the life of Shâkyamuni: in the centre, the delivery of his first sermon in the deer park at Sârnâth , as indicated by his gesture, namely that of teaching and starting up the turning of the Wheel of the Doctrine. To the right there is his miraculous birth from the hip of his mother, Mahâ Mâyâ, assisted by three of the most important deities of the Hin- du pantheon: Shiva, Indra and Brahmâ. To the left there is the reaching of his Enlightenment, evoked by the gesture of touching the earth and calling upon it to testify his achievement, witnessed by two forms of the Bodhisattva Padmapâni (see nos 2 and 3).
The surface of the second cover depicts, in the centre, the goddess Prajnâpâramitâ, the anthropomorphic man-
ifestation of the cycle bearing the same name. To her right, there is one of her thirty-three different manifestations, or perhaps Târâ, whilst Vasudhârâ 1, a goddess who is par- ticularly venerated by the Newar Buddhists of the Valley, is depicted to her left 2. A tiny image of Akshobhya, the Cosmic Buddha presiding over Prajnâpâramitâ’s family, is just visible on the front segment of the diadem worn by her,. This six-armed Prajnâpâramitâ holds a lotus flower and the book which she herself represents, whilst she displays the gesture of greeting with her primary hands. The halos surrounding the three goddesses and two im- ages of Shâkyamuni are very similar to that reproduced in this catalogue (cf. no. 7) and probably coeval. The style in which the trees behind the images, probably banana trees, and other details were carved bring to mind a text of the Prajnâpâramitâ produced in Nepal at the beginning of the 18th    century 3.
A piece of cord would have been threaded through the two central holes visible on both covers to hold the pages of the book together.

1 Cf. Pratapaditya Pal, Himalayas. An Aesthetic Adventures, The Art Institute of Chicago in association with the University of California Press and Mapin Publishing, Chicago 2003, pp. 52- 53, fig. 26.
2 Cf. Ibid.,p. 43, fig. 19. 3 Cf. Ibid., p. 53, fig. 26.

ALC (Free Circulation) 

Capriaquar © 2011 - Vat N. IT 01718530544


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