This is an early and exceptional sculpture of Tsong Khapa (1357-1419), founder of the Gelug order. He is seated in the lotus position, his body tightly wrapped in patched garments made of long strips of metal. He wears a meditation cloak and the pointed hat of his order, and holds the long stem of two lotus flowers attached to his elbows. The lotus to his left supports a manuscript. His large and beautifully-made hands do the ‘turning the wheel of dharma’ gesture (dharmacakra mudra). The hem of his robe is finely incised with a lotus design (see below). He has the face of an old man, with sunken eyes and wrinkles on his forehead.
This is a later but equally exceptional portrait of a youthful but pot-bellied lama, seated on a typical 15th century lotus base. His hands in the dharmacakra mudra, he holds the long stem of two lotuses, one supports a manuscript topped with a flaming pearl, the other has the hilt of a sword stemming from it. The hem of his robe and his meditation cloak are finely incised with lotus flowers, his eyes are inlaid with silver. The inscription on the base identifies him as Tsong Khapa.
On this sculpture, with a typical 17th-18th century double-lotus base, we see him without lotuses and less idealised. He is a little plump, with realistic facial features, his eyes closed in meditation, his hands not quite in the usual dharmacakra position, his feet supple and fleshy.
Most sculptures dating from the 17th century onwards are heavily gilt and depict him in a standard way.