Tibet (a Kadampa monastery)
Distemper on cloth; 18 1/4 x 14 1/4 in. (46.4 x 36.2 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1991 (1991.152)
Although the identity of this square-jawed lama is unknown, the painting can be securely dated because of an inscription on the reverse stating that it was placed on the eastern wall or wing of his residence by Chen Nga Tshultrim Bar (10381108). This early tangka is important because it clearly displays many of the compositional and stylistic motifs that became ubiquitous in twelfth- to fourteenth-century tangkas such as the type of throne and pillow against which the lama sits, the floral-patterned altar cloth hanging over the front of his throne, and the alternating feline creatures and elephants who appear on the throne's base. This tangka is also one of the earliest examples in which a lama is depicted as a deified being with gold skin and a halo.