Thangka of Yamantaka & His Consort
Mid-19th century or earlier
Silk Applique, Seed Pearls, Gold & Silver Threads; Coral, Cotton Backing
63 x 47½ inches overall
34 x 31 inches - image
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Very good condition with some soiling from use. (Thangka would benefit from a sympathetic cleaning -- tho such action would undoubtably remove some or all of the authentic, pleasant aroma of smoke that one gets if the piece is held close to the nose.) Minor fading, mainly to the pinkish border. The blue, often a fugitive color, is of a rich hue. The saffron, tan and gold silk protective cover for the thangka is present, tho not visible in our photograph (which does not do this piece justice.) The seed pearls are still bright which may indicate replacement in the recent past. There are two beads near the top of the thangka. One is old coral and the other may be glass masquerading as coral.
Quality antique applique thangkas, always more scare than the more common painted images, have become quite rare. This image of Yamantaka and his consort Yami/Vajravetali, also called Tsamundi or Chamunda, is a superior example of the Mongolian artisan's work.
Yamantaka is said to be the wrathful form of Manjushri, the embodiment of all of the Buddha's wisdom, taking a fierce bull-headed form to subdue the Lord of Death. He is one of the Drag-ched -- the eight Dharmapalas, Protectors of the Teaching of the buddhas. His main hands hold a chopping-knife (karttrka) and human skull-bowl (kapala) with his other hands holding a variety of traditional elements, e.g. damaru, phurba, bow, bell, etc.