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Rossi & Rossi Ltd

Lama portrait
18th c.
Silk patchwork

The variety of different types of silk – cleverly combined to transform the simple composition of this picture into a rich and striking image – make this Lama portrait a very good example of patchwork thang-ka. The identification of the monk portrayed is difficult to ascertain due to the lack of specific attributes and inscriptions. He sits on a double cushion covered by a mat and receives homage from a diminutive crowned figure in the foreground. A Buddha in a round halo hovering in the sky in the right corner completes the composition. It is possible that this picture was originally part of a larger set of thang-kas, representing a lineage of teaching.

Twelve different types of silk, some plain and some patterned, are used to achieve the subtle palette of this picture. The details are picked up either with silk embroidery or, in for the outlines, by couching gold and silk cord. The gold cord is produced by wrapping a gold strip around a silk core and the silk cord by wrapping coloured silk around some animal hair. The warmer yellows, oranges, pink and reds bring the figures forward against the cooler blues of the background. The reflection of the light on the silk creates a very sumptuous yet refined effect, showing the Tibetan’s love for lively colours at its best.

all text & images © Rossi & Rossi Ltd

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