Mar 3, 2022

Transfer of the Embryo, folio 13 from a Kalpa-sutra

Transfer of the Embryo, folio 13 from a Kalpa-sutra


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Gum tempera, ink, and gold on paper

Sheet: 11.7 x 29.5 cm (4 5/8 x 11 5/8 in.); Matted: 38.1 x 50.8 cm (15 x 20 in.)

On Loan from the Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection 17.2014



The paintings on this page illustrate the text describing the unusual circumstances of the early gestation of Mahavira. He had been conceived in the womb of a Brahman woman of the orthodox Hindu priest class, shown reclining twice on this page. In the upper register, a goat-headed divinity gently takes the golden embryo of Mahavira away in his raised hands. He had been sent by the king of the gods, who mandated that a teacher of the new religion be born of a queen. In the lower register, the divinity brings the queen’s embryo to the Brahman woman in exchange.

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