About this object

A richly carved wooden book cover (top) in a similar style of carving to 50.31.130. The three small seated figures sit within arches on pedestals. The central figure's throne or pedestal is in the Nepalese style, the lower columns supported by elephants, with a garuda and mahakara above. The central figure is Prajnaparamita she holds a pecha or Tibetan manuscript in her raised left hand and a dorje in her raised right. Her lower left hand rests in her lap, while her lower right hand is raised to her heart. The figure on the left is Manjushri or Jampelyang, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. He holds a sword raised behind his head in his right hand and a lotus springs from his left side. To the right is Akshobhya or Mikyopa, one of the five meditating Buddhas. The three figures are interspersed with swirling foliage that surround peacocks (one at each end), a deer and a lion. There are several borders in the style of lotus leaves and strings of pearls. Traces of gilt are still visible and the reverse side of the cover has been painted with a red pigment and an series of protective circular patterns.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place made
    Asia: Central Asia: Tibet [China]: Ü-Tsang: Lhasa
  • Date made
    14th Century
  • Materials
    Gilt Metal; Pigment; Wood
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    From the Collection of Sir Charles Bell
  • Collector
    Charles Alfred Bell
  • Place collected
    Asia: Central Asia: Tibet [China]: Ü-Tsang: Lhasa
  • Date collected
    Before 20 January 1913
  • Measurements
    250 mm x 697 mm x 22 mm; 9 13/16 in x 27 7/16 in x 7/8 in
  • Note
    List of Curios No 109:
    Tibetan bookcover 28" x 10". Three large figures. In the centre "The Great Mother". On the left (looking at the bookcover) Jam-pe-yang. On the right is Mi-kyö-pa (mi bskyod pa) (Sanskrit Akshobya) one of the five Jina. He is seated on a throne supported by elephants and dressed in the Long-kö dress i.e. with ornaments. Mi-kyö-pa is a Long-kö but sometimes takes Trü-ku form and dress i.e. without ornaments. On each side a peacock, in the middle a lion and a deer. Obtained from Sera Monastery.

    Curator's note: Bell did not acquire this bookcover directly from Sera Monastery, as he did not visit Lhasa until 1920-21. He could have acquired it from one of the aristocratic families he visited during his annual inspection trips to southern Tibet. The Palha family are a likely candidate as Bell notes in his book, Portrait of the Dalai Lama that the Palha family were, 'in alliance with Sera' and he was a regular visitor to them on these trips. Or he could have bought it from a trader in Sikkim or Kalimpong.

    Bell made a feature of his Tibetan manuscript covers in his Residency in Gangtok, Sikkim. He appears to have employed a local carpenter to bracket several of the bookcovers together to form a surround for his fireplace (see attached image). From here he displayed a large number of items in his collection that can now be found in the National Museums Liverpool collection. It is unclear whether or not the fireplace was in working order, but if fires were lit, it would explain the lack of gilt on the bookcovers.

    Written by Emma Martin
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  • List of Curios

    Bell, Charles Alfred

    Author: Bell, Charles Alfred
    Description: A typed object catalogue from Bell's handwritten notes on a wide variety of objects from his personal collection. This information often contains, the date he obtained an object, its provenance (including where and who he acquired from) and the person responsible for giving him the information. The process of writing the inventory began in December 1912 and continued until the late 1930s.

Object view = Humanities
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