Although small, the Gallery’s Himalayan collection contains works that are among the highlights of our Asian collection, notably the sublime Nepalese copper gilt image of Padmapani, the Tibetan gilt bronze Kalachakra and Vishvamata and a large, finely cast silver gilt vajra or ‘thunderbolt’, the quintessential symbol of Vajrayana Buddhism.
The Himalayan region encompasses Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and Kashmir. Our Himalayan collection centres on the objects and images of Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism, including thangkas or 'portable icons’ of Tantric deities, iconographic sculptures, works on paper, images of gurus, ritual objects and implements. Tibetan paintings include an early 15th-century thangka of Vaisharavana, god of wealth; a thangka of the Medicine Buddha Bhaishajyaguru from the 1800s, and several painted ‘initiation cards’ or tsakali. At the Gallery, a bold contemporary image of the female deity Vajrayani dominates our permanent Himalayan displays, which always have a thangka on show.