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Yongle Embroidered Thangka Returns to Christie’s Hong Kong

On 26 November 2014 a Yongle period silk thangka from a private American collection will go on sale at Christie’s Hong Kong in the Important Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, with an estimate of HK$80,000,000. It is the third time this outstanding example of imperial workshop embroidery will have appeared in a Christie’s sale.

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Embroidered thangka, Yongle period, Ming Dynasty (1402 – 1424), silk and metal thread, 2.13 x 3.35m (7 x 11′), Important Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, Hong Kong, 26 November, estimate HK$80,000,000

Two decades ago the thangka sold for $1,014,500 at Christie’s New York (HALI 76, p.145). An outstanding example of imperial workshop embroidery, it is ‘in superb condition with brilliant colours’, as noted in HALI 123, p.105, where it is recorded as having realised a world record for a textile at auction- fetching HK$30,874,100 ($4,014,500) in 2002.

The Chinese Yongle Emperor was particularly devoted to Buddhism; the reign is notable for its many fine religious works. It is likely that this large piece – measuring 3.35 x 2.13 metres – was given to a Tibetan lama visiting the Chinese court in 1407. It later passed to Sikkim, and then in the 1940s the Chogyal of Sikkim gave it to Alan Palmer, an officer in the British army. It depicts the wrathful deity, Raktayamari in union with Vajravetali, symbolising wisdom and compassion with five transcendental Buddhas above and seven dancing Goddesses below. A short video about the piece can be seen below.

The thangka is on show at Christie’s London headquaters, 8 King Street, from 31 October – 4 November as part of a touring exhibition of international highlights of important Asian art, which coincides with Asian Art in London (30 October – 8 November). Another seven Tibetan thangkas and a 13th century Nepalese paubha from the ‘Property of a Gentleman’ collection (lots 485-498) are offered in the two-day sale of Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Textiles that will take place at Christie’s South Kensington on 4 and 7 November 2014.

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Paubha, Nepal, circa 13th century, lot 492, estimate £8,000 – 12,000, Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Textiles, Christie’s South Kensington, 4 and 7 November

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