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.
He usually has a frowning expression on his face and wears princely jewellery like a bodhisattva.
There is always an exception and we see him here smiling and wearing few ornaments.
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.