Tibet, Milarepa – variants (3)

18th century, Tibet, Milarepa, brass with silver and copper inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

This masterpiece depicts Milarepa with his typical hairstyle, relaxed posture, meditational belt, monkish robe and antelope skin, his right hand over his knee and the left hand holding a skull cup.

The round holes in his earlobes tell us that he once wore some hoops or spiral-shaped earrings. His meditation belt and robe are decorated with a floral pattern.

Undated (15th or 16th century), Tibet, Milarepa, brass and pigments, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

The right hand raised to the ear, a gesture proper to him, is thought to be a reference to his teaching method (preaching with songs). The other hand would normally hold a skull cup but here he is leaning against it.

16th century, Tibet, Milarepa, copper alloy and pigment, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Another variant is the right hand over the knee and the left hand holding a skull cup, as above. The artist has given him thick curls, individually sculpted, and marked skin folds under the breasts (a feature typical of the 16th century). He sits on a stepped plinth decorated with a chased floral and rice grain pattern.

Undated, Tibet, Milarepa, brass, same as before.

Likely to be far more recent, this fine work depicts Milarepa on a big cushion, the antelope skin covering it from side to side, his robe draped across the chest, under the arm and over the right shoulder.

Undated, Tibet, Milarepa, silver, same as before.

It is most unusual for him to be seated on a deer skin. In fact, he is said to have prevented a deer from being killed by a hunter and his dog while he was a hermit.


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