Large, Pierced Silver & Copper Ga’uNyalam, Tibet
late 19th century
height: 20cm, 15.5cm, thickness: 6.7cm, weight: 385g
Tibetan ga’us are not rare but those that are decorated with fine silverwork are uncommon. This fine example of a ga’u or portable talismanic shrine or box is of trefoil shape and comprises a pierced, silver front decorated various Himalayan Buddhist symbols and other figures such as kala masks, Garudas, and so on all amid tight scrolled work in repousse and engraved. The background is exquisitely rendered and shows delicate floral and leaf scrollwork that is typical of Eastern Tibet, although this example has been produced in Nyalam (a Tibetan town near the Nepalese border) in the Eastern Tibetan style. The window at the front is of arched form and would have permitted a small painted, clay figure of a deity, usually the Buddha, to be seen.
The sides and backing plate are of hammered copper. Two pairs of applied silver lugs are to each side.
Ga’us are encountered only in Tibet or areas influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, such as Bhutan. No other Buddhist regions have anything like them. They were worn when travel was undertaken but otherwise were stored on the domestic altar.
Clarke, J., Jewellery of Tibet and the Himalayas, V&A Publications, 2004.
Art of the Himalayas: Treasures from Nepal and Tibet, Hudson Hills Press, 1991.
Proser, A., (ed.),
Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art, Asia Society Museum/Yale University Press, 2010.
UK art market
Inventory no.: 2646