Himalayan Art Resources

Painting: Scroll Work

Painting & Composition Types (Flat Art)

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Scroll Work Painting Description (below)
- Tibetan Scroll Work (tangka, ཐང་ཀ)
- Nepalese Scroll Work (paubha, पौभा)
- Indian Scroll Work (pata)
- Chinese Scroll Work (hanging scroll)
- Painting Subject Page
- Four Composition Types
- Four Ground Colours
- Format: Sets, Size, & Orientation
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

Scroll work paintings are designed to be portable and when not in use or being transported are rolled up. Scroll works have a number of different types based on various criteria such as size, ground colour and subject of the work. Painted scroll works tend to be not more than a few meters in length while textile scroll works known as a giant applique can be dozens of meters in length and cover the side of a multi storied building. The different cultural language words used, such as tangka, paubha and pata do not contain or infer any special religious or spiritual characteristics related to the final scroll work. These terms also do not imply a religious art work, however, the majority of scroll work subjects are either Buddhist, Bon or Hindu.

Tibetan scroll works called 'tangka' (ཐང་ཀ་, thangka, thanka, tonka, or tanka) are based on the pata and paubha paintings of Nepal and India. The subjects are primarily related to Buddhism and Bon religion and have three main subjects: figurative, narrative and diagrammatic. Murals, drawings, book illuminations and initiation cards are not defined as Tibetan scroll works.

The drawing and pigments of a painting are generally applied to the surface of a prepared cotton cloth fastened to a stretcher to keep the fabric taut. Other fabrics such as silk are also used but somewhat rare and usually of a later creation after the 16th century. Traditional framing of a painting is done with the addition of cotton cloth at the top and bottom and flared outward at both ends to allow for added protection when rolled. A later Chinese borrowing is the addition of silk brocade strips fastened on all four sides of the finished work.

Jeff Watt [added 4-2020]

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).