13. Footprint Thangka of Drigung Jigten

Late 12th/early 13th Century
Pigment wash on silk
17¾ by 19¾ in. (45.2 by 50.3 cm.)

European Private Collection

David P. Jackson, Painting Traditions of the Drigung Kagyu School, Rubin Museum of Art exhibition catalogue, 2015, pp. 77-80, fig. 5.4, illus.

In this extremely rare painting, Chakrasamvara, blue in color, stands in the center of the composition and is embraced by the consort Vajravarahi.  With one face two hands, and three eyes, he wears a crown of five human heads.  In the register above them are seven gurus, and in the second register at left is Sakyamuni.  Descending vertically in the two outer registers are depictions of Siddhas, including: King Indrabhuti, with Virupa on one side and Lakshminkara on the other, Dombi Heruka riding atop a tiger with his consort, Saraha in a standing posture and holding a bow across the shoulders, and Kukkuripa, holding a dog.

In the center above Chakrasamvara is Drigung Jigten Sumgon, the main disciple of Phakmo Drüpa and founder of the Drigung Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism and Drikung Thil Monastery.  At either side are his footprints.  Jackon notes (op. cit, p. 77) that they were perhaps real ones applied in a dye that has since faded away and that “the painting probably dates to his lifetime, and presumably the silk was personally blessed by contact with his feet.”

Compare a closely-related example in Kathryn H. Selig Brown, Eternal Presence, Handprints and Footprints in Buddhist Art, Katonah Museum of Art, 2004, pl. 6, p. 39. Also compare the silk thangka in the Zimmerman collection in Pratapaditya Pal, Art of the Himalayas ~ Treasures from Nepal and Tibet, 1991, no. 79.