Portrait of a Lama, Possibly Dromton

Date: last quarter of the 11th century

Culture: Tibet

Medium: Distemper on cloth

Dimensions: Overall: 18 1/4 x 14 1/4 in. (46.4 x 36.2 cm)
Framed: 31 3/4 x 21 13/16 in. (80.6 x 55.4 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1991

Accession Number: 1991.152


This enthroned lama, in a gold decorated robe, sits in a yogic posture, holding his hands in dharmachakra mudra, symbolizing the Turning of the Wheel, the Buddha’s first sermon. The elaborate architectural setting is supported by lions and flanked by two rearing leogryphs on elephants. In the upper corners, two bodhisattvas expound the dharma, their hand gestures echoing those of the preaching lama. An inscription on the reverse establishes that the portrait belonged to Chengawa Tsultrim Bar. In all likelihood it depicts Dromton (1005–1064), of whom Chengawa Tsultrim Bar was a leading disciple. Dromton was the founder of the Reting monastery, seat of the Kadampa school and the foremost disciple of the Indian monk Atisha, who revitalized Tibetan Buddhism in the first half of the eleventh century. The image thus establishes a formidable lineage.