Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Function-Motivation of Art Objects

Function-Motivation for the Creation of Art Objects | Art History Main Page

Seven Types of Function & Motivation:
- Devotional (reflective, sacred, meritorious, oath)
- Didactic, (instructional, matter of fact)
- Narrative, (biographical, story-telling)
- Utilitarian, (ritual, functional)
- Memorial (in memoriam, death)
- Commodity (necessity, financial)
- Decorative (aesthetic, beauty)

The function of the various forms of Himalayan and Tibetan art and the motivation for the creation of such objects can generally be divided into seven categories. Some objects can belong to several categories such as ritual objects made at the request of the Yongle Emperor for the purpose of giving away to teachers, temples and monasteries. Objects can also be created for one or two reasons and then later re-purposed for another use such as initiation cards being framed and then strung together into a banner to be hung in a small temple or chapel. A painting or sculpture made as a commodity could be later owned by an important teacher and then re-classified after his passing as a sacred object.

See the Ashmolean Museum for examples of the seven Function-Motivation types.


Seven Types of Function & Motivation for the Creation of Himalayan Art Objects:

Devotional (reflective, sacred, meritorious, oath):
- Deity Figures
- Teacher Figures
- Objects deemed sacred
- Others...

Didactic, (instructional, matter of fact):
- Cityscapes, Pilgrimage Places & Site Location Paintings
- Field of Accumulation Paintings
- Wheel of Life Paintings
- Others...

Narrative, (biographical, story-telling):
- Life Story Paintings
- Moral Story (Jataka) Paintings
- Nepalese Narrative Scrolls
- Others...

Utilitarian, (ritual, functional):
- Clay Molds (tsatsa)
- Initiation Cards
- Ritual Objects
- Others...

Memorial (in memoriam, death):
- Clay Molds (tsatsa)
- Painting
- Sculpture

Commodity (necessity, financial, gift exchange):
- Art as Decorative (see below)
- Painting (Pilgrimage & Temple Shop Art)
- Ritual Objects
- Sculpture (General)

Decorative (aesthetic, beauty):
- Art as Commodity (see above)
- Amulets (togchag)
- Book Covers
- Furniture
- Struts (Densatil)
- Others...

Jeff Watt 5-2015