Offerings to the Goddess Palden Lhamo

Date: late 16th century

Culture: Tibet

Medium: Distemper on cloth

Dimensions: 67 x 44 1/8 in. (170.2 x 112 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of Frances Gould-Naftal and Marvin Naftal, 1983

Accession Number: 1983.510.1


This is one of two paintings in the Museum's collection that may have come from a Tantric initiation room in a monastery in western Tibet. Their large size relates them to murals both in terms of composition and impact of scale.

In the center of this painting is the terrible blue four-armed goddess Lha Mo, shown riding on her mule. She is one of the dharmapalas, the protectors of the faith, and is commonly depicted as a wrathful, emaciated hag. She is shown wearing a necklace of severed heads and holds a skull cup brimming with blood. She is surrounded by a flame mandorla and her vehicle stands within a fiery circle. They are surrounded by offerings. The upper portion of the painting with its black background is filled with musical instruments, perhaps also offerings to the deity. Beneath her is a register of auspicious Buddhist symbols and below that, the seven attributes of a chakravartin (universal ruler): the wheel, wish-fulfilling jewel, the perfect minister, wife, elephant horse, and general. The top of the painting has a curtain of stretched, flayed human skins.