A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAINTING OF NGOR ABBOTS
A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAINTING OF NGOR ABBOTS
A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAINTING OF NGOR ABBOTS
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A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAINTING OF NGOR ABBOTS
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A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAINTING OF NGOR ABBOTS

EASTERN TIBET, 18TH CENTURY

Details
A RARE AND IMPORTANT PAINTING OF NGOR ABBOTS
EASTERN TIBET, 18TH CENTURY
35 ¾ x 26 in. (91 x 66 cm.)
Literature
Himalayan Art Resources, item no. 25119.

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Hannah Perry
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Lot Essay

Among the finest paintings originating from the eastern Tibetan region of Kham, the present work depicts the fourth through eighth abbots of Ngor in exquisite detail. Ngor is one of the two main sub-schools of the Sakya tradition, and it is renowned for its scholarship and artistic patronages. The central figure of this painting represents Gorampa Sonam Senge (1429-1489), the sixth abbot of Ngor and a pivotal figure in the Sakya philosophical tradition. Seated atop a cushioned throne ornamented with luxurious silks, he is depicted in a three-quarters view following Chinese conventions of portraiture. He is depicted holding his right hand in the gesture of fearlessness, and his left hand delicately pinches the stem of a lotus, on which it supports asutra text and a sword of wisdom. To his proper left, and to the right of the composition, is a lacquered table holding his ritual implements, which include a skull cup, vajra and bell, a hand drum, and an offering plate.
At the upper-center of the composition, Guhyasamaja Manjuvajra and Rakta Yamari are depicted floating among azure clouds. Below the two meditation deities, In a clockwise direction, starting from the upper left, the painting depicts the fourth abbot Gyaltsab Kunga Wangchuk (1424-1478), the fifth abbot Khedrup Palden Dorje (1478-1482), the seventh abbot SangyeRinchen (1501-1516), and the eighth abbot Konchok Pelwa (1445 - 1514). In the lower center of the composition and above an array of jewel offerings is a representation of White Jambhala, the sole manifestation of the popular wealth deity believed to be an emanation of Avalokiteshvara.
The painting embodies a syncretic Khamri painting style originating from the Derge region of Eastern Tibet. Earlier Ngor lineage paintings from central Tibet were characterized by their adherence to a distinct Nepalese aesthetic, a style that the lineage patronized until the sixteenth century. The painting style of the present work, however, diverges from earlier conventions, adapting to portray its hierarchs in the verdant blues and greens of Chinese landscape painting.
The painting style of the present work is related yet distinct to the contemporaneous Palpung Monastery style developed by Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne. In particular, the artist is interested in reproducing the aesthetic qualities of the exposed silk, a feature common in Chinese paintings. The artist pays homage to the Chinese visual technique of liubai , whereby the sky and elements within the painting are left unpainted, leaving the raw cloth to accentuate and frame the works by means of absence, rather than presence.
Further, the present work incorporates various elements and motifs from many traditions of Tibetan painting. The clouds and the peonies, adorned with leaves, are depicted in the New Menri Style popularized in the eighteenth century, while the highly stylized mountains in the background, highlighted in vibrant blues and greens and outlined with gold, relate to the early Karma Gardi painting tradition of the sixteenth-century artist Namkha Tashi. This style can be traced back to the Arhat paintings of the Yongle period.
Ngor was particularly active in the Kingdom of Derge from the seventeenth century onwards, and this region saw a tradition of retired Ngor abbots serving as chaplains in the royal court. The Lhundrup Teng, also known as the Derge Gonchen Monastery, a Sakya monastery founded in the mid-fifteenth century in Derge, played a pivotal role in Ngor's influence in the region. By the seventeenth century, the monastery had developed close ties with the Ngor Monastery in Central Tibet. This monastery, inclusive of the famous Derge Printing House, became a center for the convergence of religious and artistic practices for the Ngor tradition in the Kham region of Eastern Tibet.
Compare the painting style and brocade of the present work to a related painting of Akshobya sold at Christie’s NY on 26 Sept 2023, lot 340, and illustrated on Himalayan Art Resources, item no. 24956. Also compare the present work with a painting of Ganapati sold at Bonhams Paris on 14 June 2022, lot 57, and illustrated on Himalayan Art Resources, item no. 89906; the Bonhams painting was identified as being from Ngor monastery, but it is possible it was commissioned by a student of Rinchen Mingyur Gyaltsen while he was acting as the court chaplain of the Derge court. Also, compare the present work with a painting of Kurukulla in the collection of Navin Kumar, illustrated on Himalayan Art Resources, item no. 8057.
The reverse of the painting is inscribed with the syllables “Om Ah Hung” to consecrate the painting. It is followed by a Sanskrit Essence of dependent origination dharani and a Pratimoksha verse, serving as a reminder to Buddhist practitioners that all phenomena are dependently arisen and highlighting the importance of ethics.

ཨོཾ་ཡེ་དྷརྨ་ཧེ་ཏུ་པྲ་བྷ་ཝཱ་ཧེ་ཏུནྟེ་ཥཱནྟ་ཐཱ་ག་ཏོ་ཧྱ་ཝ་དཏ། ཏེ་ཥཱཉྩ་ཡོནི་རོ་དྷ། ཨེ་ཝཾ་བཱ་དཱི་མ་ཧཱ་ཤྲ་མ་ཎཿ སྭཧཱ།
བཟོད་པ་དཀའ་ཐུབ་དམ་པ་བཟོད་པ་ནི།
མྱ་ངན་འདས་པ་མཆོག་ཅེས་སངས་རྒྱས་གསུངས།
རབ་ཏུ་བྱུང་བ་གཞན་ལ་གནོད་པ་དང་།
གཞན་ལ་འཚེ་བ་དགེ་སྦྱོང་ཡིན་ནོ།

ye dharmā hetuprabhavā hetuṃ teṣāṃ tathāgato hyavada/
teṣāṃ ca yo nirodha evaṃ vādī mahāśramaṇaḥ ye svaha/
bzod pa dka' thub dam pa bzod pa ni/
mya ngan 'das pa mchog ces sangs rgyas gsungs/rab tu byung ba gzhan la gnod pa dang /
gzhan la 'tshe ba dge sbyong yin no/

“Those causes have been taught by the Tathagata (Buddha), and their cessation too has been proclaimed by the Great Shramana.
The Buddha has said that forbearance is the most supreme for nirvana.The renunciate who harms another and who injures another is not a monk.”

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