Gum tempera on paper, varnished
Overall: 57.8 x 48.3 cm (22 3/4 x 19 in.)
Gift of Dr. Obeysekera Ukwattage 1949.152
The yellow pigment contains chromium, which was not used in pigments until 1818.
The central figure of the Buddha, radiating light and the flame of enlightenment, is flanked by his four main disciples: Sariputra and the blue Moggallana on his left, and Ananda and Anuruddha on his right. Below him is the earth goddess holding a pot of water on her head. To her right are three guardians of Sri Lanka: Kataragama (or Skanda) with six heads and twelve arms; the blue Vibhishana, younger brother of Ravana; and, smaller in size, may be Pattina holding an anklet and neem leaf. On the opposite side are three deities: Sumana, the four-faced Brahma, and four-armed Shiva with trident. Arranged around two depictions of the bodhi tree under which the Buddha reached enlightenment, rows of other monks bear garlands in veneration. Each of the standing protector divinities around the periphery grasps a bow and arrow.
This painting evokes the appearance of 18th- to 19th-century murals in Sri Lankan Buddhist temple interiors, such as those at Dumbulla, with its rows of golden figures. It was probably part of a domestic shrine, along with small sculptures of the Buddha, palm-leaf manuscripts of Pali scriptures, incense, oil lamps, bells, and other offerings such as food, flowers, and water. The varnish that covers the painting may have been intended to shield it from the environment of an active place of worship.
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