Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Margapala Sets (Four Figures)

Margapala Lineage Paintings

Painting Sets (with four figures per composition):
- Lamdre Set 10 (Tucci Collection)
- Lamdre Set 13
- Lamdre Set 16 (Philadelphia Museum of Art)
- Lamdre Set 17 (European Collection)
- Lamdre Set 18
- Lamdre Set 19
- Lamdre Set 20
- Lamdre Set 21
- Lamdre Set 22 (Floating Figure Composition)
- Others....

The artistic convention of placing four lineage teachers in each composition - register based - of a multi-painting set is found almost exclusively within the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and was most popular in the 15th and 16th centuries. Register based compositions almost completely disappear after the 17th century with the introduction of the Floating Figure composition which remains popular right up to the present time. No examples of four figure composition lineage painting sets for the Nyingma, Kagyu or Gelug traditions could be found in the HAR database. Of course it is possible that other and perhaps earlier examples will be discovered that will change our understanding of the subject.

The earliest examples of Lamdre Lineage paintings with a four figure register composition are dated from the 15th century at the earliest with most dated to the 16th century. Only a single set of Lamdre Lineage paintings depicting four figures in a Floating Figure Composition is currently known and dates to after the 17th century. (See Lamdre Set 22).

Several of the early branches of Dagpo Kagyu such as the Taglung and Drigung employed a two figure lineage composition with the earlier and later lineage teachers appearing as smaller figures in the single composition. In the 16th century the Karma Kagyu Tradition employed a two figure register based composition set. (See examples).

Jeff Watt 2-2013