Tibet, Thangtong Gyalpo (1)

Famous, amongst other things, for having designed and built bridges in Tibet and Bhutan, this 14th century Tibetan buddhist adept, known under various names, is usually depicted like an old man with a yogi appearance, long hair, a moustache and goatee, often holding a long-life vase.

15th century, Tibet, Tangtong Gyalpo, brass with silver inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

For this superb work the artist has used silver for the eyes, moustache, goatee and a mixture of silver and copper for the large dots on his fine silk lower garment. He sits in the vajra position, on an antelope skin over a double lotus base.

Late 15th century, Tibet, Thangton Gyalpo, copper alloy with pigments, Nyingjei Lam collection, published on http://www.asianart.com.

He sometimes holds the vase with his left hand while doing the teaching gesture with the other hand and holding a medicine pill between the thumb and forefinger.

16th century, Tibet, Tangtong Gyalpo, gilt metal and pigments. is or was at the gTsug Lakhang in Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

On this sculpture, the hand holding the pill is lowered and held in a gesture denoting knowledge.

16th century, Tibet, Tangtong Gyalpo, copper alloy with cold gold, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

A view of the back shows us that, in this instance, part of the hair (dyed with blue pigment) is braided to form an Indian-style chignon (jatamukuta) and the rest is worn loose over his back. His robe covers only the left shoulder. The head and front legs of an antelope skin show on the right.

16th century circa, Tibet, Tangton Gyalpo, bronze (copper alloy) repoussé with cold gold and pigments, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This is clearly the portrait of an old man, his hair and beard gone white, his legs held in a more relaxed position.

 

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