Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Dina Bangdel


This thesis presents a close iconographic and contextual study of a set of seven Tibetan thangka paintings depicting portraits of the First through the Ninth Dalai Lamas, currently in a private collection and dated to the nineteenth-century. Through this case study, I propose to situate the genre of Dalai Lama portraits within the larger context of Tibetan Buddhist practice by considering their role and function in merit-making activities. I propose that as visual reminders of the Dalai Lamas, these portraits can be considered a type of “relic” that is foundational to devotional practices in Buddhism. Specifically, this thesis will investigate portraits of Dalai Lamas within the framework of Buddhist relic traditions. As a secondary focus, the thesis will examine the artistic conventions through which the figures are rendered present, problematizing the notion of “portrait-likeness.”


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2012