Auspicious Essay

2090 words - 9 pages

It is interesting to think that furniture is something we take for granted in the modern West, unless we are interested in and collect antique furniture. Western furniture includes useful, practical items – chairs that we sit on, raised beds that we sleep on, desks that we rest our computers on, bookshelves we put our books on, etc. So it can be hard to imagine a culture, such as that of Tibet, where some of the furniture has a completely different function, being used in a ritual and devotional capacity. In this essay, I will be analyzing a nineteenth century furniture piece from Central Tibet with the label name Altar Table with Auspicious Symbols that is currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The furnishing is made from wood with mineral pigments and stands approximately twenty-four inches in height, thirty-three inches in width, and eleven inches in depth. My goal, upon completion of the essay, is to further my understanding of the altar table in Tibet which includes the importance of the material, symbolism and iconography, its main purpose and function, and background in the culture. I will start with my original analysis of the piece and add in my research to the following paragraphs.
When I first walked into the room where this piece was exhibited I was immediately drawn to its ornate details and rather bright colors compared to the other objects that were displayed next to this one. The worn primary colors contrasted with the browns of the background gives the object a warm and welcoming sense. The general shape of the object is rectilinear with scalloped edges at the bottom that resemble that of a cloud, and corners at the top that extend outward. The façade of the table is divided into five panels, one long panel at the top, three that comprise of the center, and one panel at the bottom. All of the panels contain similar artwork that is designed with particular exuberance and is lavishly carved and painted. Around the panels are bamboo-like frames that layer upon one another with their own intricate detail, possibly referencing the region in which this table was built.
Within the long, top panel you will find that it includes six animals that are intertwined with foliage. The center of this panel contains a wheel type object and on either side of the wheel there are three of the animals. This panel seems to follow with a theme of symmetry, where if I fold it in half lengthwise, each side would perfectly match up. However, on a closer look there are a few slight differences that break this rule of symmetry. For instance, on the right side of the wheel there is a deer, monkey, and elephant that are all walking towards the center wheel. On the left side there is another deer that is walking toward the wheel, but a rabbit and a bird that are going away from the center wheel. Perhaps this is associated with the title, Auspicious Symbols, where some of the symbols are more favorable, significant, or lucky than others....

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