Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Inscriptions (Historical Information)

Inscriptions Main Page (Painting)

The examples below illustrate the importance of documenting inscriptions on the front and back of paintings.

- Inscriptions on Paintings, Part 1
- Inscriptions on Paintings, Part 2

Demo Rinpoche:
The first example has a long prayer for the rebirth of Demo Rinpoche written on the front composed by the 5th Dalai Lama. The Demo had travelled to China to visit the new emperor alongside the 5th Dalai Lama. He died on route or shortly after the visit.

Sarvavid Vairochana Buddha:
The Vairochana Buddha has a lengthy inscription on the reverse composed by the 5th Dalai stating the reasons for the creation of the painting, the funeral services of a Mongolian prince, naming the artist and discussing the current Tibetan painting styles of Menri and Khyenri which he describes as being the sun and moon of Tibetan painting.

Gyurme Dorje:
The Gyurme Dorje (1646-1714) painting is a true portrait created late in life. The verses of blessing on the back are believed to be composed by Gyurme Dorje. The two figures at the lower right and left, the brother and son, are Minling Lochen Dharmashri (1654-1718) and Pema Gyurme Gyatso (1686-1718).

The Padmasambhava painting has inscriptions on the front which relate to the identification of the deities and religious subject of the painting. The reverse inscriptions gives donor information and a date. The painting was created in 1732 by the artist Lhundrub Rigdzin and with the help of Palden Chogyong, the son of the famous Terton Dechen Lingpa (1663-1713), it was blessed by the 8th Shamar, Palchen Chokyi (1695-1732), and Tai Situ Chokyi Jungne (1700-1774) while the 12th Gyalwa Karmapa, Jangchub Dorje (1703-1732) and Shamar Rinpoche were travelling to China. Both the Karmapa and Shamar passed away of illness in China in this same year.

The small mandala of Aparajita has an inscription on the reverse stating that the artist was the 6th Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso (1683-1706/46). “This painted mandala of the great Aparajita drawn by the unmistaken hand of the Lord of Tibet Tsangyang Gyatso, a wish fulfilling jewel; may it purify the obscurations and quickly perfect the two accumulations.”

The painting of Yogeshvara Virupa surrounded by the Eighty-four Mahasiddhas has an inscription on the back claiming that the painting was blessed by Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen (1182-1251).

Jeff Watt 2-2021