Four Mandala Vajravali Thangka

Patron: Shakya Order Monks
Historical period(s)
ca. 1430
Opaque watercolor on cloth
H x W: 87.7 x 78 cm (34 1/2 x 30 11/16 in)
Tibet, Ngor Monastery
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Buddhism, dog, lotus, mahasiddha, makara, mandala, monk, Naropa, skull, Tibet, Vajravali, vulture, WWII-era provenance

William H. Wolff, 1963 [1]

Makler Family Collection [2]

From 1997
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased at auction, Christie's, Amsterdam, November 19, 1997, lot no. 8 [3]


[1] According to Curatorial Note 2 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s)

Christie's (Amsterdam)
William H. Wolff, Inc. 1906-1991


Six hundred years ago, a Tibetan abbot venerated his teacher and celebrated the establishment of a monastery by commissioning these precisely painted and richly colored mandalas, or meditation diagrams, on a cloth thangka (also tanka).  Exquisite scrollwork, slender figures, and a spirited depiction indicate that the painters came to Tibet from the adjoining Himalayan kingdom of Nepal.

Buddhist adepts visualize the mandala as a three-dimensional palace.  During meditation, practitioners imagine themselves traversing macabre cremation grounds and then passing through a ring of flames to enter the square of the mandala-palace. After meditating upon the deities in the four outer circles, they reach the principal deity dwelling in the mandala's center. The red, yellow, and blue forms of the female deity Varahi appear in three of the squares, and the male deity Vajra-Humkara, in union with his consort, appears in this thangka's fourth innermost shrine.

Published References
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 108-109.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 114-115, 142-143.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 172-175.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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