Distemper and gold on cloth; 49 1/8 x 26 3/16 in. (124.9 x 66.5 cm)
Seymour Fund, 1971 (1971.189)
This is one of two paintings in the collection that are part of a set depicting the abbots of Ngor Monastery. Ngor followed the teachings of the Sakya school and the monastery is associated with an important set of mandalas that we known were painted by a group of itinerant Nepalese artists shortly after it was founded in 1429. This tangka is painted in a style mainly influenced by Nepal but showing a debt to Chinese art as well, in such details as the octagonal (?) throne base with stylized cloud bands at its base, and the more naturalistic depiction of drapery. The hierarch is seated in a cross-legged yogic posture with his hands raised to his chest in a variant of dharmachakramudra, the preaching gesture. He sits on a lotus set on a throne that in turn is surmounted by an archway with pillars comprised of superimposed lotus plants. To the right of the abbot's head is a small image of Amitayus, the Buddha of Eternal Life, and to the left, the Buddha. The top and side registers contain a long lineage and the bottom is filled with a group of protective and auspicious deities. Tibetan Buddhism accords an extraordinary prestige and reverence to abbots, who were believed to embody the teachings of their lineage and therefore to be living embodiments of enlightenment.