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Nicholas Notovitch and the "Jesus Thangka"

by Terry Anthony

In the summer of 2001, I took a friend of mine to see a Himalayan arts dealer I had patronized since the 1980's. I'd been purchasing Himalayan bowl gongs (more commonly known as Tibetan singing bowls) from him for 15 years or so, and my friend wanted my help in obtaining a good one for himself.

Among the 20 or so examples the dealer had in stock there was one fine old example with exceptional tone which my friend purchased. While we were examining the bowls, the dealer brought out a few other items to show me. He knew I was always interested in unusual items, so he showed me what he called, "the most unusual thangka I have ever seen." He'd been traveling to the Far East each year for over 20 years bringing back such items and had seen countless antique thangkas, so I knew that statement meant something.

[Above: Full panel of the tapestry showing two scenes from the life of Jesus.]

[Left: Left panel in detail. Note the scars in hands of Jesus.]

[Above: Figure 1 Right of panel in detail. Jesus walks on the water.]

A thangka (pronounced with the h silent) is the traditional form of religious painting produced by Buddhist monks for centuries in the Himalayas. They are usually painted on canvas or cotton cloth and framed in silk. The old ones are commonly worn, torn, faded, stained, and just generally beaten up by years of travel by caravan from one monastery to another, though some apparently never left their original monastery, or travelled little, so are in better condition.

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