Tibetan antiques at Himalayan Antiques
Set of Thirteen Fine Quality Large Tibetan Tsakli

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Indian Subcontinent: Himalayas: Pre 1800: item # 483981

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Himalayan Antiques
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Ipswich, Massachusetts 01938

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Set of Thirteen Fine Quality Large Tibetan Tsakli
Tsaklis occupy a small and rather neglected niche in the world of Tibetan Buddhist artifacts. They are like poor cousins to the much more studies and collected Tibetan thangkas, but they are much more numerous than thangkas and offer a much wider range of subject matter.

Like thangkas tsakli come in a wide range of qualities and painting styles. Some were rather hurriedly painted by not very skilled artists while others were no doubt painted by the same artists who set their skills to painting highly refined thangkas. Unlike thangkas which were invariable painted on cloth or occasionally embroidered on cloth, more often than not tsaklis are painted on paper though many were done on cloth as well. The paper can range from quite thin to almost as thick as cardboard when multiple layers have been sandwiched together.

Often the backs of tsakli are heavily inscribed, and sometimes these inscriptions are almost as beautiful as the paintings on the fronts. On the older tsakli these inscriptions are often done in archaic scripts and only a few Tibetan scholars can read them. Longer inscriptions are often a mantra to be said while visualizing the subject on the front. Sometimes a short inscription simply identified the figure.

Tsaklis were almost always painted in sets, but over time these sets have usually been broken up. When we find cards from a set we try to keep them together. Who knows what information they may contain? Here we have a set of thirteen cards, all the same size on the same stiff paper with the same painting style and coloration on the front and the same calligraphy on the reverse. One card, however, is much more worn on the front and one card is much more worn and soiled on the back.

Eight of the cards portray three individual men dressed in monastic robes and hats, each with his hands in a different posture (mudra). A ninth card is a portrait of a single lama, probably the abbot. One card shows three gods, and the remaining three cards depict various offerings or implements.

These are large tsaklis: each card is 4-3/4 by 6-1/2 inches. Each card is inscribed on the back with six or seven lines of calligraphy in black ink, with an occasional highlighted word in red.

We have made the judgment call of showing only eleven of these cards, with two cards to photograph, so as not to have to shrink their size too much. The missing two cards are extremely similar to the six showing the three lamas. With the eleventh card we have included a scan of a representative reverse inscription. All other inscriptions are very similar. Only one card (the one showing a bowl of red jewels) has damage to the red border (badly taped).

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