The composition is exquisitely worked with brocade, satin, and embroidered silk appliques, some detailed with satin stitches and outlined with couched cords to accentuate outlines, the central image depicting Sakyamuni, one hand held across the lower chest and the other in bhumisparsa mudra, gesture of touching the earth, the deity emanating an aureole, seated below the sun and the moon with crossed legs in vajrasana on a lotus flower base supported on a platform, in front of an emblem, dharmacakra, the Wheel of Buddhist Law, raised on a lotus flower and placed in the foreground, flanked by two white Buddhist lions, mounted within silk brocade borders, the reverse side characteristically sealed with, and exterior covered with, yellow silk
28 x 49 1/2 in. (71.1 x 125.7 cm) overall
The Potala Palace, Lhasa
A close advisor of the present Dalai Lama
A South East Asian collector, acquired in 1992

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Carrie Li
Carrie Li

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Lot Essay

No other examples of mid to late Ming date appear to have been published. Judging from the excellent quality the needlework in creating such a complex design and use of such a rich array of materials, it is possible to conclude that the present thangka would have been a costly production, probably commissioned either by the emperor or very high officials, and offered as a special gift. The brocades chosen to construct the composition, a number of patches with woven gold threads, are datable to the Ming dynasty Wanli period. As such, it is possible that the production of the thangka is dated to the latter half of the sixteenth century.

A limited number of appliques of this type prevailed from 17th to 19th century. Cf. an example dated to the early Qing dynasty, depicting a seated Ratnasambhava rendered in a similar composition as the present thangka, but the work was constructed in Tibet, illustrated by J. E. Vollmer, Silks for Thrones and Altars, Chinese Costumes and Textiles, Myrna Myers, 2003, no. 69. Also, compare with two other examples, dated to 18th/19th century, illustrated op. cit., no. 68, of Tibetan construction, and no. 70, Mongolian construction.

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