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Amy Heller. Early Paintings from West Tibet and the Western Himalayas in the Margot and Thomas J. Pritzker Collection

Between 1933 and 1937, Giuseppe Tucci (1894–1984) discovered many early Tibetan illuminated manuscripts, thangkas and murals, as well as portable sculptures and clay statuary, in Tholing, the capital of the former Guge kingdom (now in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China) and the satellite royal monastery of Tabo (now in Spiti, India). In the aftermath of Tucci’s discoveries, Tom and Margot Pritzker have been instrumental in promoting exploration and scholarship in the art and architecture of 11th–13th century Buddhist temples in Guge (see, Pritzker, 1989, 1992, 1996, 2008). They have also formed a collection of objects from this region that document historical antecedents in Gilgit and Kashmir, as well as the later period in Tibet (see Orientations, April 2003, special issue on the exhibition ‘Himalayas: An Aesthetic Adventure’ at The Art Institute of Chicago). The Pritzker collection also comprises several Western Himalayan paintings, previously unpublished, which further enrich our understanding of the cultural and aesthetic tendencies then coalescing in Guge, particularly the influences of Kashmiri artists invited to embellish the newly founded temples circa 1000 CE. This article will discuss the distinctive iconographies and painting techniques of this period as documented by several early thangkas of the Western Himalayas and portable paintings on wood and paper in the collection. 

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