Skeleton Dance Costume, Silk, flannel, Tibet

Skeleton Dance Costume

late 19th or early 20th century
Silk, flannel
Overall: 70 × 60 in. (177.8 × 152.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Edward A. Nis, 1934
Accession Number:
Not on view
Skeleton dances were often performed in public, as they allude to the impermanence of life and, by extension, of all things. This idea has always been central to Buddhist practice. In Tibet, a monk seeking a deeper understanding of transience sometimes meditated in charnel grounds. Upon the monk’s departure from the monastery, a chod skelton dance was done in secret monastic contexts to prepare the initiate. In both instances, the dance/musical performances were heightened by the actions of the performer and the dramatic costume, with the white bones of the skeleton standing out against the red (flesh) felt body. Such ceremonial dances were effective in conveying abstract and subtle aspects of the Buddhist philosophical tradition to a large audience.
Mrs. Edward A. Nis , New York (until 1934; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Manchu Dragon: Costumes of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912)," December 8, 1980–August 29, 1981.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas," December 20, 2014–June 14, 2015.