This small painting belongs to a well-known group stemming originally from the sTag.lung monastery founded in 1180 by bKra.shis.phel (1142-1210). Under his leadership the monastery housed as many as three thousand students. He transmitted teachings from the 'Ka.brgyud.pa school. The monastery did not only attract many religious students but played too a political role due to strong ties with the Sa.skya.pa order who dominated the political field in Tibet during the thirteenth century.
The presented painting is very similar to another small example, sold in our Amsterdam rooms on 19 October 1992 as lot 84 and later published by J. Casey Singer and Ph. Denwood (eds.), in Tibetan Art: Towards a definition of style, Laurence King Publishing, London 1997, p. 56. Both paintings display the same lineage at the upper border and the same small figure between both central, seated lamas in discourse, who could represent bKra.shis.phel himself and a pupil of sGam.po.pa. The place of the lama emphasizes the direct transmission of the teachings from master to disciple. According to Jane Casey, bKra.shis.phel was succeeded by his nephew sKu.yal.ba or Ratnanatha (1191-1236). He, in turn, was followed up by his nephew Sangs.rgyas.yar.byon or Prajnaguru (1203-72). As the Amsterdam painting provided their names in an inscription and both depicted pontiffs from the presented painting are very close in facial detail and successors of bKra.shis.pel, it is not to be excluded that indeed they represent the same lamas. In fact, both paintings are similarly executed, display for a larger part the same iconography and share a comparable aesthetic quality. Therefore it is suggested to date the presented painting to the same period as the Amsterdam example (ca. 1236-1273), or perhaps just slightly later.
As the presented painting is framed and backed by a board, it is not known if there are any inscriptions on its reverse to confirm this presumption.