Early Karmapa with Footprints
Early Karmapa with FootprintsCentral Tibet; late 12th century; Dyes or thin washes of pigments on silk;
Rubin Museum of Art; F1997.32.2 (HAR 508)
This votive painting belongs to the Karma Kagyu School, judging by the special black hat that its main figure wears. It exemplifies the simplest and probably earliest-known painting of a founding master of that school, or Karmapa. It pays homage to the black-hatted master shown above the footprints, who is presumably the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (1110–1193).
The painting was simply executed with thin washes of color on silk, so it lacks most of the expected features of a fully colored painting. Still it exemplifies devotional paintings of the late twelfth century, based again on worship of the lama’s footprints.
The painting also pays respect to the master by depicting him under a broad parasol and surrounded by auspicious objects placed within the undulating vine that grows from below. The parasol is an ancient Indian Buddhist iconographic element of depictions of the Buddha and a way of auspiciously paying homage.