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Asian Art

Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso (1543–1588)

19th century

Tangka, opaque watercolor and ink on cloth

image: 26 1/4 × 16 3/8 in. (66.675 × 41.593 cm)
framed: 33 1/8 × 23 1/4 in. (84.138 × 59.055 cm)
Gift of Alice and Nasli Heeramaneck in memory of Viola and William B. Arvine
Paintings such as this one were frequently part of sets portraying all of the holders of the title Dalai Lama. As is typical in portraits of Sonam Gyatso, he is shown seated in a three-quarter view and is accompanied by one of his teachers at the upper left, as well as deities that were important to his practice and depictions of some of the many monasteries he built. The small figure at the lower right represents Alta Khan, the sixteenth-century leader of the Mongols whom Sonam Gyatso converted to Buddhism. Khan, shown making offerings to Sonam Gyatso, awarded him the title Dalai Lama (meaning “ocean of compassion”), which has since been used for leaders of the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, including the current titleholder, the fourteenth Dalai Lama.
Tibet, China
Not on view
18th–19th century
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.