History of the “Bartholomew Collection”


Provenance of The Bartholomew Collections

It is generally accepted that “provenance” is the preeminent factor in determining the cultural art historical significance, rarity, and value of any particular art object. In the case of Bhutan Art in Textiles, Mr. Marko Bartholomew’s Bhutanese textile collection, the provenance of his pieces is simply in a class of its own, predating other collections by more than a decade.


No other textile scholar, collector, or merchant had such direct contact with these Royal individuals during this period. Given Mr. Bartholomew’s pioneering endeavors in this field, he was able to locate and acquire a tremendous number of pieces that were only available at this time, when Bhutan first opened her doors to the world in 1976.

Most of these pieces were acquired between 1976 and 1982 directly from their original owners. MarkO took possession of these pieces outside of Bhutan’s borders, mainly in northeast India and Nepal. This singular provenance is in fact the distinguishing characteristic and hallmark of this unique and unsurpassed collection.

Mr. Bartholomew is in ongoing discussions with Her Majesty the Queen of Bhutan and the Royal Government of Bhutan since his third Royal Government invitation to Bhutan in June, 1999. This invitation was from Foreign Minister Lyonpo Jigme Thinley. During his 5-week stay, Mr. Bartholomew was granted a 3-hour audience with Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck. During this time, both the Royal Family and the RGB stated clearly that the propriety and future placement, including sales and exhibitions of Mr. Bartholomew’s collection, would be solely determined and executed by Mr. Bartholomew or subsequent owners, with Bhutan Textile patters no violation or infringement upon the Royal Government of Bhutan.


The Wall Street Journal (“Bhutan’s Lost Art”, 09 August 2001) calls Marko Bartholomew a world-recognized expert on Bhutan textiles, “an American…who has amassed the world’s greatest collection of textiles from the remote Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.” The Asian Wall Street Journal adds (10 August 2001) that it was Mr. Bartholomew “who first revealed to the world the exceptional beauty of weavings from Bhutan.”

Beyond their acknowledged value as one of the world’s most intricate and complex textiles, virtually all of these historic heirloom pieces possess some combination of royal, mystical, mythological, religious, and anthropological attributes.

Presently, the Bartholomew Collection encompasses an unparalleled collection including the most historically significant Bhutanese textiles known.

* The oldest known “Triple Jewels” in the world, which comprise the Tikhep, or royal throne cover; the Shingkha, or applique shaman’s tunic, and the Kishung, the brocaded shaman’s tunic.
* The widest array of the best-preserved Royal Throne Covers in the world
* The Throne Cover of the first King of the Wangchuck Dynasty.
* An original silk Dragon Crown of the 2nd King of the Wangchuck Dynasty.
* Ceremonial shaman tunics formerly worn by some of the most revered holy people of Himalayan Buddhism.
* Rare ceremonial dress pieces worn by nobles and royalty.


The following major museums have purchased important Bhutanese textiles directly from the Bartholomew Collection to augment their own permanent collections of Asian textile art:


* The Osaka Ethnographic Museum – Japan
* Kiryu City – Japan
* The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
* The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts – Minneapolis, Minnesota
* The Cultural Art History Museum – The University of California, Los Angeles
* The Museum of International Folk Art – Santa Fe, New Mexico
* The Royal Ontario Museum – Toronto, Canada
* The Museum for Textiles – Toronto, Canada


I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those showing interest and giving consideration to this project, which is the culmination of my 35-year Quest with the Thunder Dragon of Bhutan.

Bhutan Textile Heritage

Since the beginning of the history of Bhutan, textiles have been considered among the highest forms of artistic and spiritual expression. Unique weaving methods and skills were developed which led to the creation of textiles of exceptional beauty and craftsmanship. The Bartholomew Collection is the world's largest collection reflecting this religious and cultural art heritage from Bhutan.

The Significance of Bhutanese Textiles

- Aesthetic Value: Bhutanese textiles represent the most intricate patterning of any textile art in the world.

- Unique Craftsmanship: The methods and skill applied for the creation of these textiles are unparalleled in textile art history.

- Functionality: These were textiles that played a critical role in all religious, official and social events.

- Spiritual Significance: According to the Buddhist scholars, symbols and design elements represent glyphs of ancient wisdom.