New York City Workshop!

All About Thangkas

All About Thangkas
May 06, 2017
9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Talas, 330 Morgan Avenue
Brooklyn, New York


Email to register and reserve your place in this intensely informative and comprehensive day-long workshop, with keynotes presentations, open Q&A during catered lunch, and discussion of thangka examples.

Private tours of thangkas at the Rubin Museum and the American Museum of Natural History on May 4, 5 are offered by arrangement.

About the Instructor:

Ann Shaftel saw her first thangka in 1953 during a school trip to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).  Since 1970 she has been working with thangkas in monasteries, museums, dharma centers and for private collectors.  Ann has worked with the Rubin Museum, AMNH, UNESCO, Yale University, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and many more.

Ann’s current conservation outreach project, Treasure Caretaker, trains monks and nuns to protect and preserve Buddhist sacred treasures in their own monasteries, with workshops in Bhutan, India and Nepal.

Ann is a fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, a Fellow of International Institute for Conservation, Member of Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, ICOM-Canada, ICOM-ICR, and ICOMOS.  She trained in conservation at Winterthur/University of Michigan and ICCROM.  Ann has a MA in Asian Art History.

What is a Thangka?

A thangka is a Tibetan religious object in the form of a scroll.  A thangka is a complex construction including a painting, a textile mounting (sometimes with leather corners), pendant ribbons, a textile cover, a cord to hold up the cover, a cord or ribbons from which to hand the thangka from, top and bottom dowels, and wooden or metal decorative knobs on the bottom dowel.  An iconographically complete thangka consists of a painting and a mounting: a painting without a mounting is incomplete.

Thankas evolved, in Tibet, from the nomadic lifestyle of early Buddhist monastics.  These monks traveled extensively to outlying areas to spread the teachings of Buddha.  Everything they needed and used traveled on the backs of yaks, including tents, furniture, and paintings.  Consequently, thangkas were damaged, then as now, by rolling and unrolling.  Later when the monasteries were built, thankas hung over shrines and were often damaged by direct contact with the walls behind them.  The burning of butter lamps and incense, traditional in Tibetan Buddhist worship, deposited thick layers of darkening soot and grease on the thangkas.

Thangkas also present conservators with a unique challenge in choice of treatment.  For a conservator to be able to offer complete and appropriate conservation treatment to a thangka, it is crucial to have some background in the techniques of their manufacture.

“All About Thangkas” presents the thangka form, textile and painting components, and details of their creation, use, deterioration and preservation.

Class is Limited to 20 students.