This dynamic Tibetan thangka, a painting on cloth made for meditative worship, combines the gruesome imagery of Himalayan wrathful beings with delicate details. Robust forms gracefully arch and swoop. Garments, hair, and ornaments respond to bodily movement. We can almost hear the beat of a drum and the open-mouthed roar of the deity who protects Buddhist teachings. Associated with divination, or prophesying the future, Nechung Chogyong can be identified by the distinctive mirror ornament, inscribed with the Sanskrit syllable Hrih, worn over his heart.
The thangka was formerly in the collection of Natasha Rambova (1897–1966, theosophist, Egyptologist, actress, costume designer, and wife of legendary movie star Rudolph Valentino), which suggests avenues for research into American interest in spirituality in the early twentieth century and into early American collections of Tibetan art. The thangka was gifted to the museum in honor of Donna Strahan, the head of the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research at the Freer and Sackler Galleries.