School of Design

ULITA - an Archive of International Textiles

mandala thangka
Date: mid 19th-early 20th Century
Dimensions: 79 x 59 cm (31 1/8 x 23 1/4 in.)
Medium: wood, silk, water colour pigment, cotton canvas cotton string
Made in: Tibet
Description: Painted panel bordered in yellow silk brocade and inset into a red silk brocade hanging, suspended from a wooden batten with red string for hanging, and backed by a red loose weave material. The painted panel is protected by a loose cover of yellow, or gold, silk. Stitching is machine produced. The word thangka derives from the Tibetan language, and denotes a visual record of an event. Traditionally such objects were hung in temples to support prayer. Thangka painting was a family craft, reserved for the males only. The master made the sketch in charcoal and the son or apprentice added the colours. The mandala symbol (from Sanskrit meaning circle) is used as a spiritual teaching tool, and as an aid to meditation. The basic form represents gates containing a circle and inner square with a centre point. Each of the points is usually associated with a colour, a means of transportation (horse and lion are seen), and an element (air, earth, water, fire). Buddha-like figures and devils are depicted. There are also bodhisattvas: human beings who let themselves be born again to act as spiritual guides to other living creatures. Typically mandalas feature four gateways leading inwards to three or more concentric levels. A main deity is represented towards the centre, often surrounded by other deities at each corner of the concentric levels. Buddhist symbols depicted are the wheel (symbolizing the law), the lotus (purity), the throne (representing the founder of Buddhism, Siddharta Gautama), and the lion (regality, strength and power). The background shows water, land, mountains and the heavens. Part of the Georgina and Raymond Mills Collection.
Inv. No.: 2012.187

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