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Tibetan Buddhist wall paintings

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Title: Tibetan Buddhist wall paintings  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Tibetan art, Chödrak Gyatso, 7th Karmapa Lama, Dudul Dorje, 13th Karmapa Lama, Dob-dob, Deshin Shekpa, 5th Karmapa Lama
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Tibetan Buddhist wall paintings

The Tibetan Buddhist wall paintings are usually found in Tibetan Buddhist temples or other religious structures in the Western Himalayas. There are some regional differences, but the described techniques furnish a guideline to the traditional wall paintings within this area. The wall paintings were executed on earthen plaster with the so-called secco-technique.[1] A secco-technique is a painting technique in which the pigments with their binder are employed to paint onto a dry (Italian: secco) wall.

Painting technique

Detail wall painting, Ladakh
Detail of a wall painting in a Buddhist temple in Ladakh/India

The support for wall paintings in made of [3] Compasses were employed mainly for the construction of mandalas. Figures were roughly sketched, and then rendered with precise contours. These outlines are usually in black.[4] Repetitive designs were in some cases achieved with the use of stencils.[5] Traditionally, colour codes were employed to accelerate and simplify the colouring of the various ornaments and figures. For this purpose each section was given a number from 1-9 or an abbreviation of the name of the colour.[6] Some paintings were embellished with raised ornaments (pastiglia-technique).[7] Either a semi-liquid paste was applied to the painting surface, or a stamp had been previously produced from a mould and then applied onto the painting surface.[8] Depending on the final visible colour of a painting, specific colours for the underpainting were employed. An ochre for example has an underpainting in a bright yellow. Similar to Tibetan paintings, the traditional painting was carried out with shading systems, such as a dry or wet shading system. Shading may be obtained with glazes, or with one of the dry shading systems, such as the so-called dot-shading technique in which minuscle dots of colour cover the paintings surface.[9] Specific details were then achieved with small paint brushes employing a variety of colours: black, white, ochre or red.

Specific ornaments of a representation were enriched with gold. This was either applied as a gold leaf or as powder in a binder.[10]


  1. ^ Agrawal, O.P. (ed.) (1989) "Wall Paintings - Asian Perspective. In: Wall Paintings of India- A Historical Perspective. Lucknow, p.1.
  2. ^ Bogin, S.( 2005) "A Technical Study of Early Buddhist Wall Paintings at Nako, Himachal Pradesh, India." In: Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung; 19/2, p. 207.
  3. ^ Jackson, D. P., Jackson, J. A. (2006) Tibetan Thangka Painting: methods and materials. Hong Kong.
  4. ^ Bogin, S. (2005), "A Technical Study of the Early Buddhist Wall PAintings at Nako, Himachal Pradesh, India". In: Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung; 19/2, p. 219.
  5. ^ Lo Bue, E. (2006) "Tibetische Malerei." In: Tibet. Klöster öffnen ihre Schatzkammern. (Exhibition catalogue. Museum für Asiatische Kunst. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.) Essen: Kulturstiftung Ruhr. p. 91.
  6. ^ Jackson, D. P, Jackson, J. A. (2006) "Tibetan Thangka Painting: methods and materials. Hong Kong, p.93.
  7. ^ Dasser, K. L. (1996) "Some Observations on the Technology of the Wall Paintings in the Sumtsek. In: Alchi: Ladakh's Hidden Buddhist Sanctuary. London: the Sumtsek, pp. 273-276.
  8. ^ Bogin, S. (2005), "A Technical Study of the Early Buddhist Wall Paintings at Nako, Himachal Pradesh, India". In: Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung; 19/2, p. 220.
  9. ^ Jackson, D. P., Jackson, J. A. (2006) "Tibetan Thangka Painting: methods and materials. Hong Kong, p. 111.
  10. ^ Mazzeo, R., et al (2004) "Characterization of Mural Painting Pigments from the Thubchen Lakhang Temple in Lo Manthang, Nepal". In: Journal of Raman Spectroscopy; 35, p. 678-685.
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