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AN EXTREMELY FINE SET OF SEVEN SINO-TIBETAN THANGKA CELEBRATING THE RELIGIOUS ORIGIN OF THE SIXTH PANCHEN LAMA
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AN EXTREMELY FINE SET OF SEVEN SINO-TIBETAN THANGKA CELEBRATING THE RELIGIOUS ORIGIN OF THE SIXTH PANCHEN LAMA

JIAQING/DAOGUANG

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AN EXTREMELY FINE SET OF SEVEN SINO-TIBETAN THANGKA CELEBRATING THE RELIGIOUS ORIGIN OF THE SIXTH PANCHEN LAMA
JIAQING/DAOGUANG
Each exquisitely painted in vivid colours with the main central figure in various highly detailed landscape settings, the central figure and surrounding atributes finely drawn in pencil outline, employing sapphire-blue, verdant-green, red and orange pigments with areas highlighted with gilding, each painting is enclosed within a double bordered Chinese brocade frame and mounted as a hanging scroll, the silver scroll ends chased with lotus scrolls

THANGKA A

Portrait of the Sixth Pancen Lama (1738-80) seated on an elaborate dragon throne below the Amitabha framed within a circular aureole and above the protector Tseumar who rides a war horse, Palden Lhamo and a Brahama Deity. The Tibetan inscription g'fsobo on the reverse may be translated as 'The Main One' to indicate its central position placed within a temple. This would have been the central portrait around which other portraits were arranged in their order of precedence. This tangka is consecrated on the reverse with an impression of a hand.

THANGKA B

Presenting one of the Indian incarnations of the lamas, that of the King of Shangri-la, this painting shows him depicted wearing an elaborate crown addressing the Kulikas and carrying out the command of the adamantine forces. The inscription on the reverse indicates this painting should be placed 'first from (or on) the left'.

THANGKA C

In a Tibetan incarnation as Gos Lotsawa, the famous 11th century Sanskrit translator who became the disciple of Atisha, seated above his scribes. The top right with Vajrahara. The reverse inscription may be translated as 'ninth from (or on) the right'.

THANGKA D

In a Tibetan incarnation as the lama Losang Choskyi Gyaltsan, seated below Dombipa who rides a tiger skin, and bottom right with Jambhala. The reverse with the inscription 'sixth from (or on) the right'.

THANGKA E

This is a painting of Sonam Choslang, seated above Palden Lhamo on bottom right. The inscription may be translated as 'eighth from (or on) the right'.

THANGKA F

Painting of Kedrup Jey (1385-1438), the pupil of Tsong Khapa offering a stupa, seated above a six-armed Mahakala on the bottom left; Yamantaka on the top right and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva riding upon an elephant on the top left. The reverse inscription may be translated as 'seventh from (or on) left'.

THANGKA G

This is a painting of Subhuti, the disciple of Sakyamuni, holding a staff and seated beside a sea above the Four Guardian Kings. The reverse inscription may be translated as 'first from (or on) the right'.
25 x 14 in. (63.5 x 35.5 cm.) each painting approx. (7)
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium

Lot Essay

This group of thangkas can be classed among the most magnificent examples of Tibetan art. The influence of eighteenth century Chinese painting is unmistakable therefore these works must be attributed to the schools of painting developed after the Kangxi emperor (1654-1722) had extended the Manchu empire to include Tibet. According to Giuseppe Tucci (see Tibetan Painted Scrolls, G. Tucci, Libreria dello Stato, Rome, 1949, p. 412) this Chinese style of painting suggests that the pieces can be qualified as works by the K'ams schools and painters who had experienced direct contact with Chinese practices. This initially happened most particularly in Tashilunpo and Lhasa where politics necessitated interaction between Chinese and Tibetan cultures. However, after Chinese authority had taken a firm hold of Tibet the Chinese manner ruled supreme in all areas.

It was on a set of fourteen thangkas cut in wooden-blocks between 1737 and 1854 at sNar t'an, that the painters of the set of thangkas under discussion would have based their designs. Their own artistic license limited to the masterly selection and application of colour. The fact that these thangkas compare favorably with the woodblock prints from sNar t'an can be seen by comparing 'Thangka B' with the woodblock print showing the King of Shangri-la adorned with an elaborate crown addressing the Kulikas and carrying out the command of the adamantine forces (fig. 1), the compositions are almost identical. The fact that the thangkas closely relate to the designs dictated by the woodblocks allows us to place them within the series which illustrates the various successive incarnations of the Tashilunpo lamas (see Tibetan Painted Scrolls, G. Tucci, Libreria dello Stato, Rome, 1949, p. 412). These incarnations, seven of which are represented in this set, are the ancient births of the lamas, both in India and in Tibet.

This set of thangkas painted to commemorate the religious origin of the Sixth Panchen Lama (1738-80) was painted after his death in 1780, when another woodblock would have been created in his honour at sNar t'an. In conducting a stylistic comparison of this set of thangkas with a set in the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing dating to 1771 (fig. 2), it is evident how closely related they are. Although the paintings in the Palace Museum collection are slightly advanced in their detailing, which is to be expected given their Imperial provenance, the fine quality and similarities in the rendering of stylistic motifs as well as in the use of colour, suggest that these two sets are close in date. Therefore, it is probable that the set of thangkas under discussion dates to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries. Moreover the silk-brocade mountings, which would have been applied in China are alike in design and quality, therefore this set of thangkas would have been intended for use in China either at the court or in a prominent temple.

Part of a similar set of paintings is illustrated in Tangka-Buddhist Painting of Tibet, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 2003, p. 10-33. Compare also two examples very closely related in style to the present lot both dated to the forty-fifth year of Qianlong (1780 A.D.), the first a portrait of White Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom; the second a portrait of Vajrabhairava, illustrated in Cultural Relics of Tibetan Buddhism Collected in the Qing Palace, figs. 17 and 24 respectively.

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