The painting under discussion was apparently sold by a Chinese art dealer to a European diplomat during the mid-twenties. This painting forms the central part of a large triptych. One of the side panels was later acquired by the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst in Vienna, Austria. The other was sold in circa 1930 in Tjechoslowakia and is reputedly known as being missed since World War ll.
According to the Chinese art dealer the triptych was removed from the Xinggong temple at Chengde (Jehol) during the Boxer Revolution of 1900. Chengde was an extended summer residence resort of the Chinese emperor Qianlong (A.D. 1736 - 1795). The Xinggong temple was especially constructed for the visit of the Tibetan Panchen Lama in 1779. He was summoned to come to Chengde to discuss religious but above all political matters with Qianlong.
It is quite possible that the present painting was made for the Xinggong temple, which housed the Panchen Lama for several months. First of all the underground of the painting, silk, is uncommon as medium in the Tibetan Buddhist painting tradition. It emphasizes the importance of this tryptich, like its rather unusual size. Next the iconography of the painting relates to the Panchen Lama. The central figure represents Tsong-kha-pa (A.D. 1356 - 1419), the founder of the dGe-lugs-pa school. In due course this sect became the leading religious and political authority in Tibet, which is headed by the Dalai and Panchen Lamas. Their influence stretched as far as Mongolia, Manchuria and larger parts of Central Asia. Even Qianlong and many members of the Chinese court were for political and religious reasons followers of this specific Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Therefore to create a large triptych with Tsong-kha-pa as central figure is rather appropriate for receiving the Panchen Lama
Altogether, it is convincing that the triptych under discussion was especially created for the visit of the Panchen Lama in 1779 to the Xinggong temple at Chengde, the summer residence of the Chinese emperor Qianlong and known as an ardent follower of the dGe-lugs-pa tradition.
See colour illustration