|Research Project on the Sculptural Art of Densatil|
The sculptures from Densatil (Gdan sa mthil) have always been admired for their exceptional beauty. They originated from monastery’s commemorative stupas but tragically were destroyed in the second half of the 20th century, leaving no reminders except several old photographs taken by Francesco P. Mele, who accompanied Giuseppe Tucci on his Tibet expedition in 1948, and several fragments which fortunately have been preserved in private collections and museums.
During tibetological research on the history and politics of the Rlangs Phag mo gru pa (Lang Phagmo trupa) ruling house, some Tibetan source came to light which outline in detail the figural programme of an artistic structure called tashigomang. The deities of each tier and direction are meticulously described, about 2,200 in total. It was built for Phagmo trupa Dorje gyelpo (Phag mo gru pa Rdo rje rgyal po, 1110-1170), an eminent religious figure of the 12th century.
Notably, further research revealed that these Tibetan sources allowed a ’reading’ of those commemorative stupas (tashigomang) at Densatil of which Mele had taken pictures. The deities seen there can be identified based on the texts. Furthermore this textual approach allows a degree of flexibility in identifying surviving fragments from Densatil and in establishing their iconography.
By combining these Tibetan texts, Mele’s photographs and existing fragments, we are attempting to ‘reconstruct’ the commemorative stupas of Densatil.
Some of the main points on which this research project will focus are:
- documenting all surviving fragments,
- establishing their iconography,
- giving a full iconographic description of the entire tashigomang based on textual research,
- arranging fragments into stylistic groups,
- stylistic analysis in comparison with Tibetan, Newari and Khasa sculptures.
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