'Before his trip to the United States and Europe in 1924, Roerich had begun another series of works, "Banners of the East", which he completed upon his return. Each of the nineteen paintings in the series depicts one of the great spiritual teachers of humanity, including Jesus Christ, the Chinese philosopher Lao- Tse, Padma Sambhava, who brought Buddhism from India to Tibet; Moses; Buddha; Mohammed; Confucius; St. Sergius; Dorje, the daring Tibetan lama; Milarepa, the hermit and seer; Oirot, the spiritual leader of an Altai tribe and messenger of the tribe's messiah, the White Burkhan; and one feminine figure, the Mother of the World.
Roerich does not always deify these holy figures, but portrays most of them in the time and place in which they lived, carrying out their spiritual tasks. In this respect the "Banners of the East" series resembles Tibetan spiritual paintings, or tankas. As a lama tells a seeker in Roerich's book Himalayas: Abode of Light, "By our symbols, by our images and tankas, you may see how the great Teachers functioned; among the many great Teachers you see only few in complete meditation, Usually they are performing an active part of the great labour. Either they teach the people of they tame the dark forces and elements; they do not fear to confront the most powerful forces and to ally themselves with them, if only it be for the common well-being' (J. Decter, Nicholas Roerich, London, 1989, pp. 148, 150).
Tsong-kha-pa (1357-1419), whose name means 'The Man from Onion Valley', was the founder of the Dge-lugs-pa school of Tibetan Buddhism which places an emphasis on the Vinaya, the moral code of discipline, and scholarly pursuits. During his lifetime, as possibly the first Ganden Tripa, or spiritual leader of the Dge-lugs-pa school, Tsong-kha-pa taught the first Dalai Lama, Gend,n Drup, created some eighteen volumes of collected teachings and established the annual Tibetan prayer festival, Mvnlam Chenmo.
The majority of works from Banners of the East are held in private collections; 'Tsong-kah-pa' is the first from this series to appear at auction in a number of years.
For further biographical information on Roerich, please see lot 163.