16th century Tibetan thangka excels with 850% increase

A spectacular Tibetan thangka from the 16th century has sold with impressive results in a Philadelphia auction held on October 14.

Tibetan Thangka Dorje Pakmo
Liske's collection stems from his work as a mountain guide in the Himalayas

A thangka is a Tibetan silk painting that also features embroidery. It is usually decorated with Buddhist imagery, such as a deity or mandala. Within the Buddhist religion, they serve as important tools depicting the life of Buddha and various other important figures.

The example at auction depicts Dorje Pakmo, or Vajra Varahi in Sanskrit, who is the highest female incarnation in Tibetan Buddhism. She ranks third in the Buddhist hierarchy overall, trailing only the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, and is believed to be the reincarnation of the consort of the wrathful deity Demchok.

The thangka is a powerfully rendered depiction of the Dorje Pakmo, dating to the 14th-16th century. It originates from the Bill Liske Collection of Tibetan and Chinese Textiles, which is the fruit of three decades of travel and work in the Himalayas and has appeared at the Denver History Museum as well as in the respected Hali magazine.

Thangkas are renowned for retaining their colour and detail over the centuries, and the present example was no exception. In remarkable condition given its age, the piece sold for $38,000, achieving an 850% increase on its $4,000 high estimate.

The impressive results seen in the auction were likely boosted by the sale of another Tibetan thangka at Christie's in September, which sold for $1.7m.

Paul Fraser Collectibles is currently offering a brilliant signed photograph of the Dalai Lama. Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for more news from across the auction world.

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