Lineage Portrait of an Abbot

ca. 1350
Central Tibet
Distemper on cloth
Overall: 30 3/8 x 23 1/2 in. (77.2 x 59.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Philanthropic Fund Gift, 1991
Accession Number:
Not on view
The abbot of this lineage portrait belongs to the Kagyupa order of Tibetan Buddhism, centered in the U (dBus) and Tsang (gTsang) regions of Central Tibet. Here we witness a bringing together of these two stylistic streams during the fourteenth century. The lama’s face has a portrait-like quality—his concentrated expression projected both within and outward to the viewer. He is seated on a lotus throne with his right hand in bhumisparsa mudra, like the Buddha Sakyamuni. This gesture is unusual, as the majority of portraits of Tibetan lamas from this period are shown with their hands in the dharmachakra mudra (preaching gesture). His lineage is seen in the upper border, and the Indian pandits in the acanthus border roundels further define its authority. At lower right is the officiating monk, likely the donor, holding a golden incense burner.
Inscription: The inscription in Tibetan script gives the traditional four verses of the "Buddhist credo" which is probably also found in the Lantsa script.

(line 1) bka thub'ni/ mya.ngan. ' mchog Sangs.rgyas gsung/(line2) gzhan la dang// gzhan la dge.sbyong ma.yin no//

Translation: "The ascetic practice of patience is holy patience. It is the excellent way to get beyond suffering. This is the word of the Buddha. For an ordained monk to do harm or to hurt others is not the virtuous practice."

The main figure has the mantra syllables Om A Hum in Lantsa, placed schematically on the back of his head, throat and heart.
[ Chino Franco Roncoroni , Paris, until 1991, sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sacred Visions: Early Paintings from Central Tibet," October 6, 1998–January 17, 1999.

Zurich. Museum Rietberg. "Sacred Visions: Early Paintings from Central Tibet," February 14, 1999–May 16, 1999.

New York. Rubin Museum of Art. "The Ancient Nepalese Legacy in Tibetan Painting," September 3, 2010–May 23, 2011.