Thangka Depicting Green Tara
S O L D
Tibet, 18th-19th century
opaque pigments on cloth; the goddess seated on a multi-coloured lotus, wearing a dhoti with circular motifs, adorned with elaborate foliate jewellery and billowing sashes, flanked by the standing figures of Ekajati on her left and Brikuti on her right, Mahakala and a seated lama above her.
George Sheridan Collection, formed between the 1950s and 80s.
George Sheridan (1923-2008) was one of the founding members of the artistic community of Deià in the Balearic Island of Mallorca, among such illustrious residents as the poet Robert Graves. His painting style reflects the colour and rugged beauty of his adopted home in Spain, having spent many years working as an artist in London and Paris after leaving his native America. His influences included the art of India and the Himalayas, which he collected avidly and whose themes he incorporated into his work. He frequented Spink and Son whenever he was in London, becoming close friends with the legendary head of the Indian and Southeast Asian department, Anthony Gardiner, from whom he bought regularly. When in Paris he would buy from the leading dealers of the day, Jean-Claude Moreau-Gobard and Josette Schulmann. His eye for Asian art extended from the Buddhist sculpture of Gandhara, Nepal, and Tibet, through classical Indian sculpture to the magical world of Indian miniatures.
*A thangka, variously spelt as tangka, thanka or tanka (Nepali pronunciation: [ˈt̪ʰaŋka]; Tibetan: ཐང་ཀ་; Nepal Bhasa: पौभा) is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. Thangkas are traditionally kept unframed and rolled up when not on display, mounted on a textile backing somewhat in the style of Chinese scroll paintings, with a further silk cover on the front. So treated, thangkas can last a long time, but because of their delicate nature, they have to be kept in dry places where moisture will not affect the quality of the silk. Most thankas are small, comparable in size to a Western half-length portrait, but some are extremely large, several metres in each dimension; these were designed to be displayed, typically for very brief periods on a monastery wall, as part of religious festivals. Most thankas were intended for personal meditation or instruction of monastic students. They often have elaborate compositions including many exceedingly small figures. A central deity is often surrounded by other identified figures in a symmetrical composition. Narrative scenes are less common but do appear.
Thangka serve as important teaching tools depicting the life of the Buddha, various influential lamas and other deities and bodhisattvas. One subject is The Wheel of Life (Bhavachakra), which is a visual representation of the Abhidharma teachings (Art of Enlightenment). The term may sometimes be used of works in other media than painting, including reliefs in metal and woodblock prints. Today printed reproductions at poster size of painted thangka are commonly used for devotional as well as decorative purposes. Many thangkas were produced in sets, though they have often subsequently become separated.
Thangka perform several different functions. Images of deities can be used as teaching tools when depicting the life (or lives) of the Buddha, describing historical events concerning important Lamas, or retelling myths associated with other deities. Devotional images act as the centerpiece during a ritual or ceremony and are often used as mediums through which one can offer prayers or make requests. Overall, and perhaps most importantly, religious art is used as a meditation tool to help bring one further down the path to enlightenment. The Buddhist Vajrayana practitioner uses a thanga image of their yidam, or meditation deity, as a guide, by visualizing “themselves as being that deity, thereby internalizing the Buddha qualities” Thangkas hang on or beside altars and may be hung in the bedrooms or offices of monks and other devotees.
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