Inventory no.: 1196

Tibetan Silver Butter Lamp Bowls


Two Large Hammered Silver Butter Lamp Bowls

Tibet (possibly Derge, Eastern Tibet), or China for the Tibet Market

18th-19th century

diameter: 19cm & 19.5cm; height: 11.5cm & 12cm; weight: 852g (combined)

This pair of butter lamp bowls of beaten high-grade silver are unusual for their large size. Each sits on a flared foot with an even more flared bowl and is engraved with four cartouches of typically Himalayan scrolling patterns around symbols that appear to be based on Chinese double happiness symbols or perhaps the longevity symbol. The edges of the rims and bases are lined with applied pearled wire and applied cast medallions (two are missing from the rim of one of the bowls.)

The interior of the base of each bowl is engraved with a swirling foliate medallion.

Butter lamps and butter lamp bowls are placed in all Tibetan shrines, usually before images, on a low altar. Beaten copper is the most common medium for such vessels, but silver is used as well. They are symbolic of the sacred flame and use oil to illuminate the altars on which they are placed. Such lamps were filled with yak, goat or cow butter which fuelled burning cotton wicks.

Overall, this pair of lamps is highly decorative. Their silver purity is noticeably extremely high, and their age is obvious.


UK art market


Reynolds, V., Tibet: A Lost World: The Newark Museum Collection of Tibetan Art and Ethnology, The American Federation of Arts, 1978.

Inventory no.: 1196


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