A lesser, but for that reason not to be neglected, aspect of the thought of Ippolito Desideri is his perception and interpretation of Tibetan artistic phenomenology (including architecture), a lucid perception within the limits of his own formation, but certainly a passionate one, as in the case of all the other fields to which he applied himself. In the Report of Father Ippolito significant and admirable descriptions of Tibetan art are not lacking as also are some of the most noteworthy sites: Leh, Sakya, Saka Dzong, Shigatse, naturally Lhasa and its monuments (Ramoche, Potala), as well as the area around the great monastery of Sera. Father Ippolito Desideri referred to himself as "the lama Ippolito, whose head is white as a star" (Tibetan: mGo.sKar.Gyi.bLa.Ma.I.Po.li.do; in Notizie Istoriche del Thibet, e Memorie de' viaggi, e missione ivi fatta dal P. Ippolito Desideri della Compagnia di Giesù Dal medesimo scritte, e dedicate 1712–1733), more likely alluding to the clarity of his own vision than to the color of his hair. His vision not only penetrated—at least intellectually if not experientially—the ultimate modality of the existence of reality (śūnyatā), that is, the concept that stands as the foundation of the immense theoretical-speculative edifice of Buddhism, as well as the totality of the dimensions proper to Tibetan civilization, not the least of which is art. The acuteness of his gaze will take him not only to bestowing on Europe one of the first credible accounts of Tibetan art, but also to criticize—and with good reason—several descriptions of the sacred content of Himalayan art offered by authors preceding him (notably Athanasius Kircher and António de Andrade).


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 97-108
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.