Central Asia, Tibet, ca. 19th century CE. An enormous creamy beige conch shell, its surface mottled from touch and age, encased in an ornate repousse silver coating that covers both anterior and posterior and flows along the side of the shell opposite the aperture. That side of the shell is covered with silver medallions, each bearing one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism. These smaller medallions are around a larger one that is divided into eighths, each one also containing a repousse Auspicious Symbol around a central coral bead. Eight alternating coral and turquoise beads are inlaid around the medallion. The silver opens at both ends to allow someone to play the shell as a trumpet. The form of the silver mirrors that of the shell, curling around its form in a spiral. Size: 5" L x 9.5" W x 20.75" H (12.7 cm x 24.1 cm x 52.7 cm)
The repousse silver is covered in swirls, floral patterns, and sinuous vines that wind around a series of animals: deer, mice, rams, lions… these are studded periodically with turquoise and coral inlaid "jewels," most round, with a few leaf-shaped. A trumpet like this one was a powerful object in Tibetan Buddhism, used to call monks to prayer, to summon spirits, and to participate in prayer rituals.
Provenance: private Ventura County, California, USA collection
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