This set of three stunning 19th Century Tibetan thangka paintings (click on each to enlarge) was just posted to the Himalayan Art Resource website. The three composition painting set depicts the Karma Kagyu Great Seal (Skt. Mahamudra) Lineage ending with the 14th Gyalwa Karmapa, Thegchog Dorje (1798-1868).
The iconographic details in each painting are really fascinating. The lineage begins in the central Marpa painting with the primordial Buddha Diamond Holder (Skt. Vajradhara) at the top centre. Directly above Milarepa is the Indian siddha Tilopa. Directly above Gampopa is Naropa. The lineage then descends through the Marpa composition and then moving again to the Milarepa painting followed by the Gampopa painting and the completion of the lineage up to the 14th Karmapa.
At the lower centre of the Marpa painting is a depiction of the 10th Shamarpa Mipam Chodrub Gyamtso (1742-1792). At the lower center of the Milarepa composition is what appears to be a Tai Situ, possibly Chokyi Jungne. At the lower center of the Gampopa composition is the 5th Karmapa Deshin Shegpa (1384-1415).
At the bottom of the Milarepa painting are important Kagyu yidams (meditation forms). On the left is the Buddha of Highest Bliss in union (Skt. Chakrasamvara, Tib. Khorlo Demchok). On the right side is Almighty Ocean in union (Skt. Jinasagara Avalokiteshvara, Tib. Gyalwa Gyamtso).
At the lower left is of the Gampopa painting is the yidam Red Wisdom or “Diamond Sow” (Skt. Vajravarahi, Tib. Dorje Phagmo). On the right side are the protectors Radiant Goddess (Skt. Shri Devi, Tib. Palden Lhamo) and Black Coat (Tib. Bernagchen Mahakala) in union, riding on an indestructible mule.