Votive plaque (tsa-tsas) of Avalokiteshvara

An image of Avalokiteshvara commands the center of the more crisply detailed and more finely colored plaque. Avalokiteshvara, the four-armed bodhisattva of compassion, joins two hands in the gesture of worship; his outer hands hold aloft a rosary and the curving stem of a lotus. He is seated in the posture of meditation upon a lotus throne. A mantra in Tibetan runs along the plaque’s outer border. The cursory coloring of the plaque is relieved by gracefully limned eyes and brows, which lend the bodhisattva an air of meditative repose. The blue-complexioned Akshobhya (lit. imperturbable) is depicted on the second plaque. One of the five transcendental Buddhas of Vajrayana Buddhist theology, Akshobhya characteristicly lowers his hand in the earth-touching gesture. The plaque is bordered with a mantra in Tibetan script. Produced from a mold that was rather worn, this plaque lacks the sharp details seen in the jewelry, patterned dhoti, and mandorla of the Avalokiteshvara plaque.

Historical period(s)
11th-13th century
Medium
Terracotta with pigment
Dimensions
H x W x D: 10 x 8 x 2.7 cm (3 15/16 x 3 1/8 x 1 1/16 in)
Geography
Tibet, Shalu monastery
Credit Line
Anonymous gift
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S2002.3
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Ceramic, Ceremonial Object
Type

Relief plaque

Keywords
anjali mudra, Avalokitesvara, bodhisattva, Buddhism, lotus, mandorla, mantra, prayer beads, Tibet, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

Found in Gosum chapel, Shalu monastery, south central Tibet. [1]

From 2001 to 2002
Private collector, acquired from the Gosum chapel of Shalu monastery in South Central Tibet. [2]

From 2002
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of a private collector in 2002. [3]

Notes:

[1] In October 2001 the donor found the votive plaque (tsa-tsas) within rubble that had been temporarily removed from the Gosum chapel of Shalu monastery in south central Tibet. At that time, the monks were in the process of restoring the chapel's interior, which had been damaged after 1959. The monks had gathered together the debris, which they understood to retain a sacred charge, and were about to insert it into the base of benches lining the interior of the restored chapel. The Shalu monks gave the donor permission to take some of the debris to the United States for donation to a museum or monastery. The donor selected this votive plaque and offered it to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. See Curatorial Remark 1 in the object record. See also Provenance Remark 1 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See Deed of Gift, object file, Collections Management Office.

Previous Owner(s)

Dr. Mary Shepherd Slusser American, 1918-2017

Description

An image of Avalokiteshvara commands the center of the more crisply detailed and more finely colored plaque. Avalokiteshvara, the four-armed bodhisattva of compassion, joins two hands in the gesture of worship; his outer hands hold aloft a rosary and the curving stem of a lotus. He is seated in the posture of meditation upon a lotus throne. A mantra in Tibetan runs along the plaque's outer border. The cursory coloring of the plaque is relieved by gracefully limned eyes and brows, which lend the bodhisattva an air of meditative repose. The blue-complexioned Akshobhya (lit. imperturbable) is depicted on the second plaque. One of the five transcendental Buddhas of Vajrayana Buddhist theology, Akshobhya characteristicly lowers his hand in the earth-touching gesture. The plaque is bordered with a mantra in Tibetan script. Produced from a mold that was rather worn, this plaque lacks the sharp details seen in the jewelry, patterned dhoti, and mandorla of the Avalokiteshvara plaque.

Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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