School of Design

ULITA - an Archive of International Textiles

mandala thangka
Date: mid 19th-early 20th Century
Dimensions: 62.4 x 51 cm (24 9/16 x 20 1/16 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 hanging of dark green silk brocade, suspended from a wooden batten with string for hanging, and backed by a red loose weave material. The painted panel is protected by an attached 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 eight pointed star (two squares interlocked) with a centre point. Each of the points is usually associated with a colour, a means of transportation , and an element (air, earth, water, fire). Buddha-like figures are depicted. There may also be 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, in this case within their own mandalas. The eight-spoked dharma wheel symbolizes the wheel of the law or truth (the eight paths of destiny). It is depicted against a landscape of mountains and heaven including dragons. Part of the Georgina and Raymond Mills Collection.
Inv. No.: 2012.189
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