Eastern Tibetan / Portrait of Jnanatapa surrounded by lamas and mahasiddhas / 14th centuryEastern Tibetan
Portrait of Jnanatapa surrounded by lamas and mahasiddhas
14th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Tibetan
Creator Name-CRT: Eastern Tibetan
Title: Portrait of Jnanatapa surrounded by lamas and mahasiddhas
Title Type: Object name
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1300
Creation End Date: 1399
Creation Date: 14th century
Creation Place: eastern Tibet
Object Type: Paintings
Materials and Techniques: Distemper on cloth
Dimensions: 27 x 21 1/2 in. (68.6 x 54.6 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1987.144
Credit Line: Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1987
Rights: http://www.metmuseum.org/

This painting of the Tantric practitioner Jnanatapa was created for Riwoche Monastery in eastern Tibet during the fourteenth century. Surrounding the central figure are the progenitors and abbots of Taklung Monastery, of which Riwoche was a branch. The two latest historical figures, second from the top on both sides and identified by inscription, are (left) Onpo Lama Rinpoche (1251-1296), the fourth abbot of Taklung and founder of Riwoche, and (right) his young disciple, Choku Orgyan Gonpo (1293-1366), who became second abbot of Riwoche. Despite some intriguing clues, the identity of the central figure in this painting was a mystery until recently. When the painting was uncovered in recent years, attached to it was a silk cloth inscribed "Jnanatapa." The figure depicted under an arch, directly above the central figure and thus in the position where one would expect his teacher to be, is identified by inscription as Avagarbha. The identity of the central figure became clear after reference to a chapter on Onpo Lama Rinpoche in a Taklung history written by Ngawang Namgyal (1571-1626), which includes an account of one of Onpo's previous lives in India. Ngawang Namgyal states that in his Indian incarnation, Onpo was "the peerless mahasiddha Jnanatapa" and his Tantric teacher was Avagarbha, a Bengali siddha in the tradition of Tilopa and Naropa. Remarkably, here we have a painting that illustrates the spiritual lineage of Riwoche Monastery, featuring at its center a portrait of one of the Indian incarnations of its founder. Why Onpo's Indian incarnation should have been considered a worthy subject for portraiture is unclear, but one recalls the Tibetan concern for the purity of spiritual lineages, which often were judged by their unbroken links with respected Indian masters.

AMICA ID: MMA_.1987.144
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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