This is a review article of Janet Gyatso's 2015 award-winning book, Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet. The art-historical aspects of the book-mainly confined to the first chapter, "Reading Paintings, Painting the Medical, Medicalizing the State"and based on a perceptive art-historical reading of a set of medical paintings and its copies- had yet to be reviewed by an academically- trained art historian. This review underscores the fine arthistorical insights deserving the attention of art historians working in parallel contexts of the often tense relationship between religious and empirical epistemologies. At the same time, the evaluation of certain readings of the visual record lead to suggested revisions in the support they provide to Gyatso's primary argument. In addition, other precedents of depictions "from life"in Tibetan art history are offered to help contextualize claims of originality or uniqueness. Finally, an analysis is presented of less formal, freehand painting versus more formalized, iconometric execution, calibrated with vernacular subject matter versus iconographically predetermined themes. Both of the painting modes and subject types are combined in the painting set analyzed by Gyatso supporting her assessment of the innovation of the artists selected by the patron, Desi Sangyé Gyatso (1653-1705).
- Desi Sangyé Gyatso
- Science and religion
- Tibetan medicine
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Visual Arts and Performing Arts