Lineage Portrait of an Abbot

Date: ca. 1350

Culture: Central Tibet

Medium: Distemper on cloth

Dimensions: Overall: 30 3/8 x 23 1/2 in. (77.2 x 59.7 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Philanthropic Fund Gift, 1991

Accession Number: 1991.304


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.