Tibet, Tsang Nyon Heruka (6)

15th-16th century, Tibet, labelled ‘mahasiddha’, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Koller.

One of the most famous lamas (Tibetan teachers), Tsang Nyon Heruka was born in Tsang and popularly known as ‘the mad man of Tsang’. He is normally depicted with a mahasiddha appearance, sporting a moustache and goatee, often seated at ease on an animal skin (leopard or tiger),  a skull cup in his left hand (and sometimes a ritual staff against the left shoulder),  a vajra sceptre in the other. He may have a half-vajra finial on his topknot and a five-skull crown, as above.

16th century, Tibet, Tsang Nyon Heruka, copper alloy with copper inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

He usually has a frowning expression on his face and wears princely jewellery like a bodhisattva.

Same as before, gilt copper alloy, inscription on the base saying ‘homage to the mad man of Tsang’, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

There is always an exception and we see him here smiling and wearing few ornaments.

Undated (16th century circa?), Tibet, possibly Tsang Nyon Heruka, brass, at the Penn Museum in Phildadelphia (USA).

We have seen a very similar sculpture dated to the 16th century, made in a Tsang province workshop (Central Tibet) and identified as a portrait of Tsang Nyon Heruka. In particular, the lotus base and tiger skin, the large spiral earrings and the richly incised garments are very similar, and he also holds a long-life vase and a vajra sceptre.




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