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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
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.

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.

Former owner
William H. Wolff (1906 - 1991)
Christie's (Amsterdam)
On View Location
Currently not on view
Buddhism, dog, lotus, mahasiddha, makara, mandala, monk, Naropa, skull, Tibet, Vajravali, vulture
Collection(s) Area
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

We are excited to reopen the Freer on October 7, 2017, following a renovation to allow us to better present our art and serve our visitors.
The Sackler remains open, with a full lineup of exhibitions and events both in the museum and around DC.