Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portrait of Jnanatapa Attended by Lamas and Mahasiddhas

ca. 1350
Eastern Tibet, Kham, Riwoche monastery
Distemper on cloth
27 x 21 1/2 in. (68.6 x 54.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1987
Accession Number:
Not on view
This portrait was created for Riwoche monastery in eastern Tibet, a branch of Taklung monastery. The central figure and the assembled abbots are not directly named on the painting. Nonetheless, two inscriptions allow a lineage identification: the epithet Jnanatapa (“heat of wisdom”) appears on the painting’s veil, a name denoting a famous Indian mahasiddha, the spiritual fathers of Tantric Buddhism. The second is the identity of presiding deity above the central figure, named as Avagarbha. The importance of these two clues is revealed by their presence in the official history of Taklung monastery, which tells that the first abbot of Riwoche monastery was an incarnation of “the peerless mahasiddha Jnanatapa” and that his Tantric teacher was Avagarbha, a Bengal siddha. Hence, this portrait is intended to invoke the spiritual lineage of Taklung and Riwoche monasteries through the person of mahasiddha Jnanatapa.
#7986. Portrait of Jnanatapa Surrounded by Lamas and Mahasiddhas
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Inscription: (read left to right, top to bottom):
a va garba|
bde gśegs rin po che \ la na ma:
rje thaṅ pa chen po la na ma:
sku yal rin po che la na ma:
rje saṅs rgyas yar byon la na ma:
rje saṅs rgyas dbon la na ma:
chosku au ṭyan mgon po la na ma:[1]
sa ra ha pa la na ma:
indra bhū ti la na ma:
? pa la na ma:
padma vadzra la na ma:
dril bu pa la na ma:
ḍoṃ bhi he ru ka la na ?
# # xi pa la na ?
lū hi pa la na ma:

[1] a with double o and ṭyana.

C. Luczanits, May 22, 2004
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. "Holy Madness: Portraits of Tantric Siddhas," February 11, 2006–September 3, 2006.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art of the Himalayas," December 3, 2011–December 9, 2012.

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