Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Set: Gelug Protectors (Purbu Chog)

Painting Sets Index/Glossary

A Gelug Protector Painting set. The primary donor for the set was Purbu Chog. An inscription on the back of the Shri Devi painting gives the names of four donors; Purbu Chog Ngagwang Champa (1682-1762), Lobzang Dargye the 49th Ganden Tripa, Champa Yeshe and Lobzang Trinle (1697-1761). Only three paintings from the set, if it is a proper set are known. A fourth composition related to the series of paintings has been identified as Panjaranata Mahakala. However the identity of the missing paintings and additional donors are known from the writings of Purbu Chog where each inscription on the back of a composition is recorded.

There are seven works depicting wrathful deities listed as having been consecrated by Purbu Chog. Each painting has an inscription on the reverse which matches with the inscriptions recorded in the collected writings of Purbu Chog. The writings and inscriptions do not make it clear which compositions are commissioned by Purbu Chog and which compositions are merely consecrated with a written benediction by Purbu Chog. Only four paintings are still known to exist from this section of the recordings of inscriptions. Three of the compositions are the same or similar in style and one additional composition recorded alongside the others, the Panjaranata Mahakala, is not in the same composition arrangement or artistic style. Although the workshop appears to be the same the brushstrokes seem different possibly indicating a different artist than the the other three paintings.

The whereabouts of the three additional wrathful paintings are currently not known; Vajrabhairava, Shadbhuja Mahakala and Yama Dharmaraja.

There is a difference between a set of paintings and a series of paintings. A set of paintings are any number of compositions that are related by subject, either iconographically, historically, by lineage, chronology or biographical. Often sets of paintings are well known, commonly duplicated and copied. A series of paintings are compositions that are made together, commissioned from the same workshop, or by the same artist or group of artists. A series of paintings, depicting unrelated subjects, is not completely rare but it is uncommon to identify the dispersed works or locate textual references that present the sequential order of the their creation.

Purbu Chog Collected Works:
Page 317-5: Shakyamuni Buddha & Sixteen Elders
Page 318-1: Begtse Chen
Page 318-4: Panjarnata Mahakala
Page 319-1: Shri Devi Magzor Gyalmo
Page 319-4: Vaishravana Riding a Lion
Page 320-1: Shadbhuja Mahakala
Page-320-1: Yama Dharmaraja
Page 321-2: Vajrabhairava
Page 321-5: Arya Maitreya

Jeff Watt 4-2014 [updated 1-2019]

(For additional information see Demonic Divine: Himalayan Art and Beyond, Robert N. Linrothe and Jeff J. Watt. Rubin Museum of Art, 2004).