Tibetan Shrine Box with Chenresi Tsakli

c. 1850
W: 3.25" D: 2.0" H: 5.0"
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Adorned with Buddhist iconography and enveloped in a rich patina, this small wooden box is a 19th century portable Tibetan shrine and likely once contained a Buddhist statue or prayer scroll. The lid of the shrine is inset with two small, molded clay tsatsa, votive offerings created by devotees of Tibetan Buddhism. Both tsatsa depict the Shakyamuni Buddha seated in meditation at the moment of his enlightenment. His left hand holds an alms bowl in his lap and his right reaches down in bhumisparsha mudra, a gesture representing the moment that the Buddha claimed the earth as witness to his enlightenment.

The interior of the box is lined with small tsakli paintings of Buddhist deities, each of polychrome pigments upon a coarse fabric. The upper portrait of a deity with eight arms and eleven faces depicts the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, also known by the names Chenrezig/Chenresi, Guanyin or Kannon. Considered the patron deity of Tibet, Chenresi is the embodiment of compassion and is instantly available to all who call upon him with their mind. Beneath his image is a fiery wrathful deity at the bottom right and a seated Buddha at the bottom left, most likely depicting Amitabha, the Buddha of Immeasurable Light.

From the collection of Frances and Gary Comer.

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