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The Fifth Dalai Lama with Previous Incarnations

18th century

Rubin Museum of Art

Rubin Museum of Art

This handsome red and gold thangka portrays the Fifth Dalai Lama surrounded by his previous incarnations. The Great Fifth was the Dalai Lama who rose to the major crisis in Tibetan history in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century when the secular rulers of Tibet fought to take back political dominance from the ever more powerful monastic orders. After the intervention of a Mongolian king, the Fifth was formally offered the throne of Tibet in 1642. He proceeded to organize a unique government integrating monastic and aristocratic officials in a single administration. He demilitarized the aristocracy and caused them to live in Lhasa and accept positions within the central government. Above this capital, he built the Potala Palace and monastery on the Red Mountain as a symbol of the reign of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, himself his reincarnation. The central figure of the Fifth Dalai Lama is robed in skillfully and boldly drawn folds of drapery, and is seated on a triple-cushioned throne, indicating that the painting was probably done during his lifetime (otherwise it would have been a lotus throne). In the center above sits Avalokiteshvara bodhisattva.

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  • Title: The Fifth Dalai Lama with Previous Incarnations
  • Date: 18th century
  • Date Created: 18th century
  • Physical Dimensions: 27 3/8 x 17 3/8 in.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Rubin Museum of Art, F1996.29.3
  • Medium: Pigment on cloth
  • Place of Creation: Central Tibet
  • Exhibition History: Rubin Museum of Art, "Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection" (02/06/13 - 01/13/14), Rubin Museum of Art, "Stable as a Mountain: Gurus in Himalayan Art" (03/13/09 - 07/13/09), Rubin Museum of Art, "Red, Black and Gold" (05/02/08 - 11/10/08), Rubin Museum of Art, "The Missing Peace" (03/16/07 - 09/03/07), Wereldmuseum Rotterdam, The Netherlands, "The Dalai Lamas" (06/03/06 - 01/07/07), Ethnographic Museum of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland, "The Dalai Lamas" (08/04/05 - 04/30/06), Rubin Museum of Art, "Portraits of Dalai Lamas" (03/16/05 - 06/20/05), Knoxville Museum of Art, Knoxville, TN, "Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion" (09/28/01 - 01/06/02), Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University Ithaca, NY, "Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion" (11/04/00 - 01/07/01), Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, "Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion" (01/16/00 - 03/26/00), Asian Arts & Culture Center, Towson, MD, "Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion" (11/05/99 - 12/10/99), Tibet House Cultural Center, New York, NY, "Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion" (04/27/99 - 09/25/99)

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