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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Tribal Art > Feature: About Thangka Art


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About Thangka Art

 "It just flowed out of the thangka, the whole practice and visualization came through", explains Maitreya - an expert in Tibetan iconography for 25 years - one of his most remarkable experiences with Tibetan art.

 The thangka depicted Avalokiteshvara, and apparently it had been used for practice before he got it. During some Buddhist rituals, the practitioners actually place their spiritual merits to thangkas and statues - and revere the figures as real physical form of the Buddha. This is also something every Buddhist should do with the images of her personal deity.

 Chatelaine's Antiques' thangkas are painted in workshops in Southern Himalayan region, by Tibetan, Bhutanese and Nepalese painters, who are practising Buddhists.

 "We select them carefully from thousands of pieces.  In real thangkas, the figures, colors, gestures and objects follow closely the original Tibetan Buddhist practises.  We check them with the texts, and if a thangka doesn't match the original sadhana, we usually don't take it, unless the artwork is very good. 2/3 have to be rejected, because of errors in iconography", says Maitreya.

 Most of our thangkas are hand made copies of old masterworks, that were based on certain visions or rituals. Artists follow the originals as closely as they can.  Painters make their paints from minerals and herbs in traditional manner.  Our thangkas are real paintings on canvas, not print art.

 A few words about framing thangkas that are not mounted in brocade. It is a good idea to use a glass for the best protection. The glass should not touch the thangka. Acid free cardboard should be used. There are different kinds of glass.  We have tried normal, matte, and special non-reflecting glass that is almost invisible, but costs something like $100 more. Usually we ourselves use normal glass.  Thangkas should be kept away from direct sunlight. Ultraviolet glass may help in some situations.

 Thangka business is big in Nepal, with some side effects. Nepalese boys are painting cheap thangkas for ignorant tourists with very little knowledge of the tradition.  H.H. the Dalai Lama, among other great teachers, has talked about this problem in several occasions.

  Real antique is rare and expensive, but there is a common method of using smoke to make a painting look dark and old - so called instant antique.  As a Chatelaine's Antiques customer you are supporting artists, who support the genuine tradition.




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