Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Lineage Paintings Main Page

Lineage Explanation Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Lineage Painting Composition Description (below)
- Lineage Definition Page
- Single Composition Painting
- Incarnation Lineages
- Lineage Paintings Greyscale Examples
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

- Lineage: Three General Types
- Lineage: Single Composition (Part 1)
- Lineage: Single Composition (Part 2)

Painting Sets:
- Teaching Lineages: Painting Sets
- Dual Figure Composition Painting Set
- Three Figure Composition Set
- Four Figure Composition Painting Set
- Multiple Figure Composition Painting Set

Lengths of Lineages:
- Distant Lineage
- Middling Lineage
- Near Lineage

Himalayan art lineage painting compositions typically have a central figure of a teacher, buddha or deity surrounded by smaller secondary figures. Either arranged in registers or floating freely, the figures are chronologically placed from the top of the composition to the bottom. The figures at the bottom are those dated most closely to the time of the creation of the painting. The lineages depicted are most commonly lines of teachers and students of a particular teaching system or Tantric cycle of practice and initiation. Lineages can also be a series of incarnate teachers such as the Dalai, Panchen or Karmapa Lamas. Lineages can also represent a series of administrative leaders or Kings such as the Shambhala Vidyadharas.

Lineage paintings have two over-all composition styles which are register composition and floating figure composition. Register is generally prior to the 15th century and the floating composition is from the 16th century to the present. For a more detailed explanation of lineages see the Lineage Definition Page.

There are many hundreds or possibly thousands of individual lineages. Each meditational deity has multiple lineages coming out of India and then additional new lineages depending on the religious tradition such as Sakya and Kagyu. Further lineages are added from branch monasteries. All followers of Vajrayana Buddhism belong to some of these lineages, however only the leaders, famous teachers, and notable practitioners are added to the official list of lineage figures for a specific tradition.

Jeff Watt [updated 8-2020]

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).